Ex­perts call on TSB to probe fa­tal bus crash in Ot­tawa

The Globe and Mail (BC Edition) - - NEWS - ALANNA RIZZA

Ex­perts are call­ing on the fed­eral Trans­porta­tion Safety Board to in­ves­ti­gate a deadly bus crash in Ot­tawa to pre­vent sim­i­lar in­ci­dents from oc­cur­ring again.

Ahmed Sha­l­aby, a civil en­gi­neer­ing pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Man­i­toba, said the Trans­porta­tion Safety Board should be in­volved in in­ves­ti­gat­ing the deadly crash to en­sure the probe is trans­par­ent and rec­om­men­da­tions are made to im­prove safety across the coun­try.

“The bus was car­ry­ing 90 pas­sen­gers,” he said. “Is that not im­por­tant enough to war­rant a fed­eral safety in­ves­ti­ga­tion? If it isn’t, then what is?”

On Fri­day af­ter­noon, a dou­bledecker bus op­er­ated by lo­cal trans­porta­tion agency OC Transpo hopped a curb and struck a tran­sit shel­ter, carv­ing deep into the ve­hi­cle’s up­per level and crush­ing a num­ber of seats. Three peo­ple were killed and 23 were in­jured.

In a tweet, the Ot­tawa Hos­pi­tal says the pa­tients who had been listed in crit­i­cal con­di­tion are now con­sid­ered to be in se­ri­ous con­di­tion.

The safety board con­firmed that they are not in­ves­ti­gat­ing the bus crash as the fed­eral in­de­pen­dent agency only probes ma­rine, pipe­line, rail and air in­ci­dents.

“If this bus were a train, the [board] would im­me­di­ately in­ves­ti­gate. That’s not enough to make a dif­fer­ence to me,” said Dr. Sha­l­aby, who is also the chair of a re­search pro­gram on mu­nic­i­pal in­fra­struc­ture.

The board’s man­date is to ad­vance trans­porta­tion safety by con­duct­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions that re­sult in pub­lic re­ports and mak­ing rec­om­men­da­tions to im­prove tran­sit safety.

The board in­ves­ti­gated a crash in 2013 in which six peo­ple were killed in an OC Transpo dou­bledecker bus, but only be­cause a Via Rail train was in­volved. The train and bus col­lided dur­ing a morn­ing com­mute in sub­ur­ban Ot­tawa, shearing off the front of the bus.

But Dr. Sha­l­aby said the kind of ve­hi­cle in­volved in a mass-fa­tal­ity crash shouldn’t make a dif­fer­ence in what spurs a gov­ern­ment-led in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Con­sta­ble Chuck Benoit said po­lice con­tinue to in­ves­ti­gate the cir­cum­stances of the crash and if the po­lice force be­lieves ad­di­tional agen­cies are needed, they would be sought out. The city re­ferred to Ot­tawa po­lice when reached for com­ment.

Gra­ham Larkin, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Vi­sion Zero, which works to­ward re­duc­ing traf­fic-re­lated deaths and in­juries, said he be­lieves the board should be in­volved in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion since these types of crashes have oc­curred be­fore.

“It seems crazy to ig­nore road safety,” Mr. Larkin said. “There’s no rea­son the gov­ern­ment shouldn’ t be tak­ing a lead on this .”

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