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Lawyer for orphaned toddler says province to blame for deadly Pemberton, B.C., mudslide

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A Vancouver lawyer representing a little girl who was orphaned by the deadly Pemberton, B.C., mudslide last November said if the province had closed the road during the unprecedented atmospheric river, no one would have lost their lives that day.

Five people died in the slide on Nov. 15, 2021 — including parents Mirsad and Anita Hadsic.

After a rare weekend away from their two-year-old daughter, the Hadsics were stuck in Vernon during the historic rain event. There was only one route open that could get them back to their little girl, who was staying with her grandmother in Metro Vancouver: Duffey Lake Road.

“They obviously would have preferred another route, but DriveBC told them that morning that the only road available to get back to the Lower Mainland was through the Duffey Lake Road artery, and that’s how they proceeded,” said Vancouver lawyer Robert Gibbens.

The Hadsics' vehicle was among dozens stuck on the road after a small mudslide blocked the route to Pemberton. They died, along with three others, when a massive wall of mud and debris came crashing down minutes later.

“The cause of the accident we are alleging was not only the fact that DriveBC told and funnelled people through this area, but also that the logging road above was improperly decommissioned,” said Gibbens.

He says that made the route more prone to mudslides, something government officials should have known when they were deciding which roads to close.

Gibbens has filed a civil lawsuit against a road contractor and the province on behalf of the Hadsics' daughter, identified in court documents by her initials Z.H.

“The grandmother has had to quit her job to look after the little girl,” said Gibbens. “Hopefully we can get some money to help her with raising this child.”

In a statement, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said: "Our thoughts go out to the family and friends of the loved ones who lost their lives in last year’s mudslides. On the specifics of the lawsuit, it would be inappropriate to comment as it is currently before the courts.”

LAWYER PURSUING CLASS ACTION CERTIFICATION

While Gibbens’ suit is on behalf of the little girl who lost her parents in the mudslide, he’s also asked to have it certified as a class-action lawsuit, so he can seek compensation for other victims.

He’s been in contact with the family of another man who died, and others who were left injured and traumatized by the mudslide.

“People lost cars, people were taken to the Pemberton hospital later on, people were covered with mud. It was a traumatizing experience for a lot of people, and if they had to initiate an action individually, it would not make a lot of sense,” said Gibbens.

A judge will rule on the class action application next April. Regardless of what happens, Gibbens said his civil suit on behalf of Z.H. will continue.

“The little girl is so young, she will probably never know her parents,” he said. “Money’s an improper measure for these things, but it’s the best we can do."

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