School district sued over fatal crash near Summerland

Woman's car was sideswiped on Highway 97 in June 2011 accident that sent 10 people to hospital, including Penticton teacher and students

Elaine Tanner v. Borba Estate, SD 67, Jennifer Mitchell

Two people whose car was involved in a three-vehicle crash that killed a man and sent 10 others to hospital have filed a lawsuit against the Okanagan Skaha School District and one of its teachers.

The estate of John Borba is also named in the notice of claim filed in May in B.C. Supreme Court in Victoria.

On the day of the June 2011 crash on Highway 97 near Summerland, Borba’s car crossed the centre line and collided head-on with a bus carrying 14 students from Princess Margaret Secondary School.

Borba, 46, died at the scene, while nine students were sent to hospital along with Jennifer Mitchell, the pregnant teacher who was driving the 24-seat bus.

A coroner’s investigation later found the rear tires on Borba’s northbound Chrysler Cirrus were nearly bald and, combined with water on the road, likely resulted in his vehicle hydroplaning and sliding into the southbound bus, which was returning to Penticton from a field trip in Kelowna.

The third vehicle, an Oldsmobile Alero driven by Elaine Tanner, was also travelling southbound when it was sideswiped by the bus and pushed into the concrete guard along the road shoulder, according to the coroner’s report.

Tanner’s lawsuit alleges 27 separate acts of negligence on the part of the three defendants, including: Borba failing to maintain his lane and operating a vehicle he knew was defective; Mitchell failing to reduce the bus’s speed to avoid the crash; and the school district failing to have the bus properly serviced and maintained.

As a result, the notice of claim continues, Tanner sustained injuries to her left foot and back, experiences anxiety and difficulty sleeping, and has suffered pain, permanent disability, and a loss of earnings and enjoyment of life.

No monetary figure is listed in the lawsuit, but she is seeking general and special damages, plus costs for legal fees and health care.

Tanner was a triple-medalist in swimming for Canada at the 1968 Olympics. Her husband, John Watt, was in the car with her at the time of the accident and has also filed a lawsuit naming the same three defendants.

Replies to the lawsuits have not yet been filed. Watt told CTV News after the crash that he tried to help Borba, but was too late.

“The impact of that really upset me that I had to witness this poor young fellow’s death, but to his family: He didn’t feel any pain. It happened very quick and very suddenly,” Watt said.