Families of the Humboldt Broncos involved in the April 6 bus tragedy will be getting some financial relief after a judge approved interim payments from their GoFundMe account.
Each of the families of the 13 survivors and 16 victims will be receiving $50,000 as an advance from the $15.1 million Humboldt Broncos Memorial Fund, totalling about 10 per cent of the account’s after-fees money.
The approval came after a court application was heard at Saskatoon Court of Queen’s Bench Wednesday morning.
Jeff Lee, lawyer for the fund, told reporters the cheques would be going out “within days.”
He earlier told the court the families needed the money due to significant financial hardship, noting they’ve had to pay for funerals, medical costs and travel. He added some have lost income due to missing work, while others have lost their jobs completely.
Scott Thomas, who lost his son Evan in the April 6 crash, said the initial payments will help.
“It allows us to take one more step forward, stop and breathe, deal with what’s there and then begin to take that next step,” he said.
While the initial payments will be distributed evenly among the families, it doesn’t mean the rest of the funds will be.
An amendment to the court application was made to ensure a new advisory committee set up by the Broncos Memorial Fund will have discretion on how those funds will be doled out.
The five-person committee, made up of prominent hockey and legal minds from across the prairies, will work over the next three months to determine how the remaining $13 million will be divided.
The committee members will collect input from the affected families on what their costs have been, and how they could use any money coming their way.
They are expected to submit a report to the board of the fund in the fall with recommendations on how to distribute the money, before it’s presented to a judge on November 15 for approval.
The committee consists of:
Dennis Ball, recently retired Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench judge
Hayley Wickenheiser, four-time Olympic gold medallist with Canada’s national women’s hockey program
Mark Chipman, board chair of True North Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Winnipeg Jets
Dr. Peter Spafford, surgeon and department chair at the University of Saskatchewan college of medicine, and Huskies hockey alumnus
Kevin Cameron, executive director of the Canadian Centre for Threat Assessment and Trauma Response in Lethbridge, AB
Some concern was raised by lawyers of several of the families that the wording of the original GoFundMe page, started by Humboldt resident Sylvie Kellington, could pose a problem.
“Money will go directly to families to help with any expenses incurred,” Kellington had written.
The lawyers worried the wording would legally imply the families would have to submit receipts and be reimbursed by the fund.
However, an affadavit from Kellington said that wasn’t her intention.
Lee, representing the Broncos Memorial Fund, said in setting up their advisory committee there was no mandate for them to consider specific expenses.
As for Thomas, he’s happy with whatever the committee decides to grant his family.
“We’re going to consider it a gift,” he said.
“There’s going to be good people in there making good decisions, and whatever finds its way to us we’re going to be more than thankful for.