Driver in Ot­tawa bus crash faces 38 charges

Ex­ten­sive, com­plex in­ves­ti­ga­tion with more than 100 in­ter­views af­ter three died, 35 in­jured

The Peterborough Examiner - - Canada & World - MIA RABSON

OT­TAWA — Two-hun­dred and twenty-four days af­ter three peo­ple died when a dou­ble-decker com­muter bus slammed into an Ot­tawa tran­sit station, the woman who was be­hind the wheel has been charged in their deaths, as well as for in­jur­ing 35 oth­ers.

Ais­satou Diallo, 42, was charged Fri­day with three counts of dan­ger­ous driv­ing caus­ing death and 35 counts of dan­ger­ous driv­ing caus­ing bod­ily harm, in­terim Ot­tawa po­lice Chief Steve Bell told a news con­fer­ence. Diallo sur­ren­dered to po­lice be­fore be­ing re­leased in an­tic­i­pa­tion of a hear­ing Sept. 17.

“The de­ter­mi­na­tion that we’ve made, in con­junc­tion with the Crown at­tor­ney’s of­fice, is that the ac­tions of the driver that day did meet a crim­i­nal thresh­old,” said Bell. Ot­tawa po­lice re­ceived help from both the RCMP and the On­tario Pro­vin­cial Po­lice, as well as the Trans­porta­tion Safety Board of Canada. More than 100 peo­ple were in­ter­viewed, in­clud­ing pas­sen­gers and wit­nesses.

Bell would not elab­o­rate on the rea­sons for the charges, say­ing that will come out dur­ing the court pro­ceed­ings.

Bruce Thom­lin­son, Judy

Booth and Anja Van Beek, all civil ser­vants work­ing for the fed­eral govern­ment, died in the crash.

The dou­ble-decker tran­sit bus was trav­el­ling to Kanata’s sub­ur­ban Bri­dle­wood neigh­bour­hood from down­town Ot­tawa on Jan. 11 when it hopped a curb and struck the West­boro tran­sit shel­ter at about 3:50 p.m. just as rush hour be­gan.

It plowed along a station plat­form and into the over­hang­ing roof of the tran­sit shel­ter, crush­ing sev­eral seats — and pas­sen­gers — on the tow­er­ing ve­hi­cle’s up­per deck.

Po­lice, fire­fight­ers and paramedics were on the scene for hours in what Bell de­scribed as “a very tragic and com­plex and dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion on prob­a­bly what was the cold­est night of the year, in very ad­verse con­di­tions.”

Some of the fam­ily mem­bers of the vic­tims spoke up ear­lier this sum­mer to com­plain about the lack of answers about how the crash hap­pened, and ra­dio si­lence from the city and po­lice. Bell said Fri­day it was “a very com­plex” in­ves­ti­ga­tion that was made more dif­fi­cult by the chaotic scene and the frigid weather. It was about -15 C when the bus crashed and the tem­per­a­tures plunged be­low -20 C overnight.

But Bell said the in­ves­ti­ga­tors were thor­ough, ded­i­cated and con­stantly aware of how trau­matic the crash was for the fam­i­lies, the pas­sen­gers and the city as a whole.

“That in­ves­ti­ga­tion started the se­cond that we re­ceived a call at our 911 com­mu­ni­ca­tions cen­tre.”

Im­me­di­ately af­ter the crash, po­lice said the 90-pas­sen­ger bus had been nearly at ca­pac­ity, and that 23 peo­ple were in­jured. But the scene was chaotic and it took po­lice a lot of time to track down ev­ery pas­sen­ger that had been on board. Even­tu­ally po­lice dis­cov­ered that 35 peo­ple had been hurt badly enough to war­rant crim­i­nal charges un­der the def­i­ni­tion of bod­ily in­jury.

That def­i­ni­tion in­cludes any phys­i­cal in­jury that in­ter­feres with health and com­fort for more than a short pe­riod of time, in­clud­ing bro­ken bones and con­cus­sions.

Sev­eral pas­sen­gers had legs am­pu­tated fol­low­ing the crash.

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