No quick an­swers in Ot­tawa bus crash

Com­pli­cated in­ves­ti­ga­tion of deadly col­li­sion de­mands ‘painstak­ing’ process, says po­lice chief

The Province - - NEWS - SHAAMINI YO­G­A­RET­NAM — Post­media News with files from Jon Will­ing, An­drew Duffy and Kelly Egan

OT­TAWA — In­ves­ti­ga­tors from three lev­els of gov­ern­ment spent Satur­day try­ing to piece to­gether the cause of Fri­day’s tragic crash of an OC Transpo bus at West­boro Tran­sit­way sta­tion that left three peo­ple dead and 23 in­jured.

The wrecked dou­ble-decker bus was towed from the sta­tion Satur­day af­ter­noon.

Ot­tawa po­lice col­li­sion unit in­ves­ti­ga­tors re­main at the heart of the com­pli­cated probe into why the packed bus, a pop­u­lar run en route to sub­ur­ban Kanata, left the road and smashed into the sta­tion.

It struck the sta­tion’s over­hang­ing weather cover, tear­ing off most of the bus’s up­per level.

At a news con­fer­ence, po­lice chief Charles Borde­leau stressed the com­pli­cated na­ture of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and said po­lice were de­ter­mined to go through it “step by step.”

Al­though the driver of the dou­ble-decker bus was taken into cus­tody at the scene, she was re­leased un­con­di­tion­ally pend­ing fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion on Fri­day night. Borde­leau urged peo­ple “not to read any­thing into” the driver’s ar­rest and ques­tion­ing.

The chief said provin­cial and fed­eral trans­porta­tion ex­perts were also on the scene, but Ot­tawa po­lice were lead­ing the in­quiry.

Sgt. Cameron Gra­ham, who over­sees col­li­sion in­ves­ti­ga­tions, said the spe­cial­ized unit would be fly­ing drones over the scene to get ae­rial pho­tos.

A large part of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion will fo­cus on as­sess­ing what po­lice call “hu­man fac­tors.” That will in­clude look­ing at the driver, her driv­ing record, her med­i­cal record and whether she was dis­tracted at the time of the crash.

Borde­leau called it a “painstak­ing” process but “at the end of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, we will have de­ter­mined ex­actly what took place.”

Once in­ves­ti­ga­tors clear the scene there will likely be fur­ther cleanup and re­pair work needed to the sta­tion.

The Ot­tawa Hos­pi­tal re­ported it still had one pa­tient in crit­i­cal con­di­tion, six in se­ri­ous con­di­tion, and four were stable. The hos­pi­tal re­ported Fri­day night it had re­ceived 18 pa­tients at two of its cen­tres, nine of them judged to be in crit­i­cal con­di­tion. The Queensway Car­leton Hos­pi­tal said seven of the eight pa­tients ad­mit­ted Fri­day night had been dis­charged, but one re­mained in se­ri­ous con­di­tion.

In a state­ment early Satur­day, Ot­tawa po­lice said that in­ves­ti­ga­tors worked through the night to iden­tify the three vic­tims on west­bound bus route 269 and to no­tify their fam­i­lies and loved ones.

The per­for­mance of the dou­ble-decker buses is one of many con­sid­er­a­tions be­ing in­ves­ti­gated, po­lice said.

The city be­gan look­ing into buy­ing dou­ble-decker buses more than a dozen years ago after in­di­ca­tions from other mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties that the ve­hi­cles could of­fer a bet­ter tran­sit ex­pe­ri­ence and could even help in­crease rid­er­ship.

Key con­sid­er­a­tions in­cluded the fact the buses of­fered unique views of the streetscape from the up­per level and had more seats (84 ver­sus 54) than the lengthy ar­tic­u­lated, or “ac­cor­dion” buses, used as high-ca­pac­ity ve­hi­cles for pub­lic tran­sit.

This was a ma­jor con­sid­er­a­tion for cus­tomers fac­ing long rides. The shorter dou­ble-decker buses also took up less space at bus stops.

Soon after the city took pos­ses­sion of its first batch of dou­ble-deck­ers in 2013, the union rep­re­sent­ing driv­ers flagged con­cerns about per­for­mance dur­ing high winds after two dou­ble-deck­ers were pushed off the road.

One vet­eran driver also said that op­er­a­tors are specif­i­cally warned to avoid the over­hangs on the Tran­sit­way sta­tions.

“The first thing they taught us was stay the hell away from the struc­tures at the sta­tions be­cause you’re not go­ing to clear them,” said the op­er­a­tor, speak­ing on con­di­tion that he would not be named for fear of los­ing his job.

There have also been ex­haust fume leaks, con­den­sa­tion is­sues, and, in 2013, two of the tall buses ac­tu­ally flipped off a windy sec­tion of open stretch of road­way dur­ing a bad win­ter storm.

Al­lan Hub­ley, the city’s new tran­sit chair and long­time Kanata coun­cil­lor, was af­fected both in his job and per­son­ally be­cause a mem­ber of his ex­tended fam­ily was in crit­i­cal con­di­tion fol­low­ing the crash.

Hub­ley said he spent time meet­ing with peo­ple after the crash be­fore head­ing to city hall for the evening news con­fer­ence. He’s been in close con­tact with trans­porta­tion gen­eral man­ager John Man­coni.

A few fam­i­lies have con­tacted Hub­ley for as­sis­tance. He talked to a mother whose son was in the hos­pi­tal. An­other pas­sen­ger needed help re­triev­ing her pos­ses­sions.

Hub­ley said he’s fo­cused on help­ing his con­stituents.

He said Bar­rhaven Coun. Jan Harder con­tacted him shortly after the crash, since she was in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion in 2013 when a dou­ble-decker bus col­lided with a Via Rail train in her com­mu­nity.

Six peo­ple died in that col­li­sion.

“She’s walked this path. This whole thing has made it very fresh for her.”

Po­lice an­nounced Satur­day evening that the col­li­sions unit had com­pleted its doc­u­men­ta­tion of the crash scene and had re­opened the lo­cal roads around the Tran­sit­way.

Po­lice chief Charles Borde­leau At the end of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, we will have de­ter­mined ex­actly what took place.”

— PHO­TOS: THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Ot­tawa po­lice and first re­spon­ders work at the scene where a dou­ble-decker city bus struck a tran­sit shel­ter. Three peo­ple were killed and 23 in­jured in the crash dur­ing the Fri­day af­ter­noon rush hour.

Up­per seats from the dou­ble-decker Ot­tawa city bus that struck a tran­sit shel­ter on Fri­day were flung along a walk­way more than 10 me­tres from the crash site.

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