Driver in Ottawa bus crash faces 38 charges
Extensive, complex investigation with more than 100 interviews after three died, 35 injured
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.