Bus driver’s record comes un­der scru­tiny

At least two other crashes in re­cent months: sources

Ottawa Citizen - - FRONT PAGE - SHAAMINI YO­G­A­RET­NAM syo­g­a­ret­[email protected]­media.com twit­ter.com/shaamini­why

Mul­ti­ple tran­sit su­per­vi­sors ex­pressed con­cerns about Ais­satou Diallo’s suit­abil­ity as an OC Transpo bus driver after two col­li­sions on the road prior to Fri­day’s fa­tal crash at West­boro sta­tion, the Cit­i­zen has learned.

And sev­eral op­er­a­tors are ques­tion­ing how the trans­porta­tion ser­vice is deal­ing with new driver road safety.

Diallo, a driver who had been on the job for less than a year and re­mains on pro­ba­tion, was driv­ing OC Transpo bus 269 en route to Kanata’s Bri­dle­wood neigh­bour­hood from down­town on Fri­day when the bus crashed into the over­hang of the bus shel­ter at West­boro sta­tion just be­fore 4 p.m. The over­hang sliced through the up­per level of the dou­ble-decker bus. Three peo­ple were killed and 23 were in­jured. Po­lice say the 90-pas­sen­ger bus was al­most at full ca­pac­ity.

Diallo was ar­rested at the scene, taken to po­lice head­quar­ters on El­gin Street and ques­tioned be­fore be­ing re­leased un­con­di­tion­ally Fri­day night.

While po­lice have not pub­licly de­tailed why she was ar­rested, the Cit­i­zen has learned that Diallo was al­legedly not co-op­er­a­tive with po­lice on scene and did not want to go with po­lice will­ingly. They felt she needed to be ar­rested in or­der to be prop­erly de­tained and ques­tioned. Sev­eral Ot­tawa po­lice of­fi­cers have ques­tioned on what grounds that ar­rest was made. Diallo has not been charged with any crime or of­fence and po­lice main­tain that, right now, they have no grounds to be­lieve any of­fence was com­mit­ted. A look at the ev­i­dence and facts will re­veal what hap­pened, po­lice said in a Satur­day news con­fer­ence, and whether there were of­fences. Chief Charles Borde­leau also urged the pub­lic to not “read into” the ar­rest.

Ot­tawa po­lice col­li­sion in­ves­ti­ga­tors con­tinue what po­lice have called the “painstak­ing ” process of piec­ing to­gether what went wrong Fri­day af­ter­noon. That in­ves­ti­ga­tion will look at what wit­nesses have al­ready de­scribed as pos­si­ble fac­tors in the crash — sun pro­duc­ing glare in a driver’s field of vi­sion, re­ports of black and reg­u­lar ice on the tran­sit­way — the pos­si­bil­ity of me­chan­i­cal fail­ures and the speed of the bus.

All sta­tions are equipped with video and a com­mand cen­tre can, at any time, de­ter­mine the speed of any ve­hi­cle on the road, driv­ers have said.

Po­lice will also be look­ing at Diallo’s driv­ing record, which mul­ti­ple sources say in­cludes at least two other col­li­sions in the months be­fore the West­boro in­ci­dent.

Po­lice of­fi­cers are aware of at least one of those col­li­sions, the Cit­i­zen has learned. On Dec. 10, Diallo was driv­ing a bus that col­lided with an­other bus at St. Lau­rent sta­tion. Fire­fight­ers and po­lice both re­sponded to that scene. It’s not known if Diallo was found to be at fault for that col­li­sion, but she was then sent for fur­ther safety train­ing, ac­cord­ing to a source.

It’s not yet known what mea­sures needed to be sat­is­fied for her to re­turn to the road.

In a state­ment to the Cit­i­zen, po­lice spokesman Const. Chuck Benoit said the force would not be ad­dress­ing ques­tions about any pre­vi­ous col­li­sions in­volv­ing the driver of the bus.

“The West­boro col­li­sion is an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion and very com­plex,” Benoit said. “We will not be able to com­ment on any per­son that is part of any on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions.”

The pres­i­dent of the union rep­re­sent­ing OC Transpo driv­ers re­fused to an­swer ques­tions about Diallo’s driv­ing record, her cur­rent sta­tus as a driver, when she was hired, what hap­pens when a driver is in­volved in any col­li­sion (whether mi­nor or se­ri­ous), or if any ad­di­tional train­ing is man­dated when such an in­ci­dent oc­curs.

Clint Crab­tree also re­fused to an­swer ques­tions about what the pro­to­col is for driv­ers in­volved in a col­li­sion where po­lice re­spond to the scene.

In a state­ment to the Cit­i­zen, Crab­tree wrote: “We are deeply sad­dened about the tragic ac­ci­dent in­volv­ing an OC Transpo bus on Fri­day, Jan­uary 11, 2019.

“On be­half of the mem­bers of (the Amal­ga­mated Tran­sit Union) Lo­cal 279, we send our deep­est con­do­lences to the fam­i­lies who lost loved ones. Our thoughts are with those who were pas­sen­gers or were in­jured on that bus, or who might have wit­nessed this col­li­sion.”

He also thanked first re­spon­ders “who quickly at­tended to the in­jured.”

The Cit­i­zen has also learned that the union wasn’t aware that Diallo had been ar­rested on Fri­day un­til po­lice an­nounced it at a news con­fer­ence.

Crab­tree would not com­ment on whether Diallo has le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tion or what kind of men­tal health sup­port is be­ing of­fered to her and other driv­ers.

Cit­ing an on­go­ing po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the City of Ot­tawa and OC Transpo said Sun­day they would only an­swer ques­tions about the city’s pro­to­col for driv­ers in col­li­sions. Those an­swers, the city said, were ex­pected “this week.”

DAVID KaWAI

The OC Transpo bus in­volved in Fri­day’s crash is towed from the scene Satur­day.

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