CAR­NAGE & CHAOS ON THE TRANSITWAY

Video cam­eras on bus likely to be part of an an­tic­i­pated lengthy in­ves­ti­ga­tion

Ottawa Citizen - - FRONT PAGE - EL­IZ­A­BETH PAYNE AND JON WILL­ING

Once first re­spon­ders com­pleted their ur­gent work and the in­jured were cared for, a team of in­ves­ti­ga­tors got to busi­ness try­ing to an­swer the ques­tion: What hap­pened at West­boro Sta­tion on Fri­day af­ter­noon?

The crash that killed three and in­jured 23 turned a busy rush hour into a scene of chaos and death Fri­day, with dozens of first re­spon­ders tend­ing to the in­jured and am­bu­lance after am­bu­lance shut­tling vic­tims to hospi­tal.

What caused the No. 269 dou­ble-decker bus headed for Bri­dle­wood to veer into the bus shel­ter at West­boro Sta­tion just be­fore 4 p.m. Fri­day? In­ves­ti­ga­tors have already be­gun try­ing to find an­swers.

Six col­li­sion of­fi­cers have been as­signed to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, Ot­tawa po­lice Chief Charles Borde­leau said Fri­day, and they were work­ing through the night and into the morn­ing to doc­u­ment the scene.

Po­lice ar­rested the driver shortly after the crash, some­thing that sur­prised Amal­ga­mated Tran­sit Union Lo­cal 279 pres­i­dent Clint Crab­tree. “I just want them to do a proper in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” he said. The bus driver was ques­tioned by po­lice on Fri­day night.

At a 7 p.m. press con­fer­ence, Borde­leau ex­plained the first steps in­ves­ti­ga­tors would take.

“Our in­ves­tiga­tive unit in­volved with col­li­sions is speak­ing to wit­nesses, gath­er­ing ev­i­dence. We’ll seize any video that may have been avail­able in the area to de­ter­mine ex­actly what caused this col­li­sion.”

Ot­tawa po­lice are work­ing with OC Transpo, Trans­port Canada and the provin­cial Min­istry of Trans­porta­tion, whose in­spec­tors are study­ing the badly dam­aged bus.

“This will be a long in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” said Borde­leau.

The bus was equipped with video cam­eras, which might play a role in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

For many in Ot­tawa, the crash brought back mem­o­ries of an ear­lier deadly crash that also in­volved an OC Transpo dou­ble-decker bus — the 2013 bus-train crash that killed six peo­ple in Bar­rhaven. The dam­age to the up­per decks of the dou­ble-decker buses in each crash was eerily sim­i­lar. In both cases, vic­tims were thrown from the dam­aged up­per levels of the buses.

The Trans­porta­tion Safety Board con­ducted a lengthy in­ves­ti­ga­tion after the 2013 crash that fo­cused on driver dis­trac­tion and the level train cross­ing, among other things.

OC Transpo head John Man­coni said Fri­day the Trans­porta­tion Safety Board found no fault with OC Transpo’s fleet of dou­ble-decker buses dur­ing its in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“There was noth­ing that pointed to dou­ble deck­ers be­ing a con­cern.”

Man­coni said the city has done ev­ery­thing it was re­quired to do as a re­sult of the Trans­porta­tion Safety Board post-crash rec­om­men­da­tions.

How­ever, TSB in­ves­ti­ga­tors did make a rec­om­men­da­tion about the “crash­wor­thi­ness” of com­mer­cial pas­sen­ger buses to re­duce the risk of in­jury. The TSB called on the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to de­velop and im­ple­ment stan­dards, some­thing that has not been done.

“In this case, the bus met all ap­pli­ca­ble fed­eral safety stan­dards. Yet un­like au­to­mo­biles and school buses, there were no re­quire­ments for im­pact, roll over or crush pro­tec­tion. A more ro­bust, crash­wor­thy de­sign may have re­duced dam­age to the bus and pre­vented loss of life in this ac­ci­dent,” TSB chair Kathy Fox said at the time.

Asked whether the crash­wor­thi­ness of the bus was a con­cern, Man­coni replied: “That is not a con­cern I have.”

The bus did not have a black box, or vehicle data recorder, sim­i­lar to ones on air­planes. The TSB rec­om­mended them for com­mer­cial pas­sen­ger buses after the 2013 train/ bus crash, say­ing they would en­able “safety im­prove­ments as well as com­pre­hen­sive and timely ac­ci­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

Fri­day’s weather is some­thing in­ves­ti­ga­tors will likely pay at­ten­tion to.

Eye­wit­nesses told this news­pa­per that the west­bound bus jumped a curb in the transitway be­fore smash­ing into the bus shel­ter.

One wit­ness de­scribed see­ing the bus slid­ing on ice be­fore the crash. An­other pas­sen­ger on an ear­lier bus at Tun­ney’s Pas­ture de­scribed it slid­ing into a curb as it headed along the transitway.

The tem­per­a­ture Fri­day af­ter­noon was around -15 C with a wind chill warn­ing in ef­fect.

“Road con­di­tions and thor­ough ex­am­i­na­tion of all the en­vi­ron­ment around the col­li­sion scene is part of the in­ves­tiga­tive process and that will be part of the fi­nal re­port as to help­ing us de­ter­mine what ex­actly took place,” said Borde­leau.

The num­bers of vic­tims and pas­sen­gers in­volved in the crash and the fact that it oc­curred on the city’s pub­lic trans­porta­tion sys­tem makes the in­ves­ti­ga­tion both ur­gent and com­plex. But that doesn’t mean an­swers will come quickly.

“The en­tire OC Transpo fam­ily is mov­ing through this process and work­ing dili­gently through­out the night,” said Man­coni. “There’s still a great deal of work to do. It’s a multi-de­part­men­tal ef­fort and we’re pulling to­gether to con­tinue to pro­vide re­sources and an­swers dur­ing this tragedy.”

WAYNE CUD­DING­TON

Fire­fight­ers at­tend to vic­tims of a hor­rific rush-hour bus crash at the West­boro Sta­tion near Tun­ney’s Pas­ture on Fri­day.

JUSTIN TANG/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

First re­spon­ders as­sist a man at the scene where a dou­ble-decker city bus struck a tran­sit shel­ter at West­boro Sta­tion on Fri­day, killing three peo­ple and in­jur­ing 23.

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