No easy an­swers in fa­tal bus crash: chief

Times Colonist - - Canada - TERESA WRIGHT

OT­TAWA — The investigation into a deadly bus crash on a busy Ot­tawa route will not yield an­swers quickly, the city’s po­lice chief said Satur­day as he cau­tioned the pub­lic not to jump to con­clu­sions about the events lead­ing up to the col­li­sion.

Charles Borde­leau said of­fi­cers have plenty of work ahead of them as they probe the Fri­day af­ter­noon col­li­sion that killed three and in­jured 23 oth­ers.

The dou­ble-decker bus op­er­ated by local trans­porta­tion agency OC Transpo hopped a curb and struck a 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, which carved deep into the ve­hi­cle’s up­per level and crushed a num­ber of seats.

The ma­jor­ity of the pa­tients in­jured in the crash have been re­leased from hos­pi­tal, po­lice said, with just one re­main­ing in crit­i­cal con­di­tion while six are listed as se­ri­ous and four are con­sid­ered stable.

Borde­leau cau­tioned that an­swers will be slow in com­ing as the po­lice tackle a mam­moth investigation.

“There were 90 peo­ple on the bus — we have to speak to all of them,” Borde­leau said at a Satur­day af­ter­noon news con­fer­ence.

“It’s a slow, painstak­ing process. Our goal is to en­sure that we get it right.”

Jack Mail­loux was cy­cling home Fri­day af­ter­noon when he hap­pened upon the scene of the ac­ci­dent.

Road­blocks and dozens of emer­gency ve­hi­cles made it clear the in­ci­dent was not mi­nor, he said. “I live in Car­ling­wood and that’s my bus stop when I’m not bik­ing. So it’s quite a con­cern.”

While the cause of the crash is still un­known, Mail­loux said he has of­ten noted the ex­press buses trav­el­ling through the area at high speeds. This par­tic­u­lar bus was not sched­uled to stop at the West­boro sta­tion, which is an­other as­pect be­ing probed in the investigation.

Mail­loux says his first thought was for his wife and son, who were sched­uled to be trav­el­ling through the area shortly af­ter the crash.

“I was mak­ing sure where my fam­ily was. And when I got home, I got a call from my daugh­ter, who said: ‘It’s good to hear your voice, Dad.’ ”

The bus was at or near its full ca­pac­ity at the time of the col­li­sion, Borde­leau said Satur­day.

Sgt. Cameron Gra­ham, of the force’s col­li­sion-investigation unit, said in­ves­ti­ga­tors would con­duct drone flights over the scene of the wreck­age, as well as gather data from the ve­hi­cle it­self and any avail­able video sur­veil­lance.

The badly dam­aged bus re­mained in place for much of the day Satur­day as in­ves­ti­ga­tors combed for clues. This meant on­go­ing road clo­sures and de­tours in the sur­round­ing area. The bus was fi­nally towed away from the West­boro sta­tion late Satur­day af­ter­noon, about 24 hours af­ter the col­li­sion.

The bus driver, ini­tially ar­rested hours af­ter the crash, has since been re­leased un­con­di­tion­ally pend­ing fur­ther investigation.

“It’s im­por­tant that the pub­lic does not read into the fact that she was ar­rested,” Borde­leau said. “The rea­sons why we ar­rested her are part of the investigation — we’re not go­ing to get into that — but our in­ves­tiga­tive unit is out there col­lect­ing all the ev­i­dence, and then we’ll see where it takes us.”

The po­lice chief also backed away from pre­vi­ous re­ports that two of the those killed were pas­sen­gers on the bus, while the third was killed on the plat­form of West­boro sta­tion. Borde­leau said new in­for­ma­tion has sur­faced to chal­lenge that ac­count, but did not pro­vide fur­ther de­tails.

On­tario’s Min­istry of Trans­porta­tion and Trans­port Canada re­main in­volved in the investigation, he added.

Shortly af­ter the crash, nei­ther Borde­leau nor Ot­tawa Mayor Jim Wat­son would spec­u­late on why the bus had left the road.

De­spite mid-af­ter­noon tem­per­a­tures of about -15 C, it had not snowed in Ot­tawa Fri­day and the busway is treated as a top pri­or­ity for the city’s snow­plows, salters and san­ders.

Politi­cians, in­clud­ing Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau and On­tario Premier Doug Ford, is­sued pub­lic mes­sages of con­do­lence and sup­port.

Wat­son pub­licly thanked the many politi­cians at var­i­ous lev­els of gov­ern­ment for their calls of sup­port “as our city con­tin­ues to cope with the tragic events of the past 24 hours.”

This is the sec­ond deadly col­li­sion in­volv­ing a dou­bledecker bus in Ot­tawa in the last six years.

In 2013, an Ot­tawa dou­bledecker bus broke through a warning gate and col­lided with a Via Rail train in Bar­rhaven, killing six peo­ple as the train sheared off the front of the ve­hi­cle.

The investigation into that case found the cause was a com­bi­na­tion of ex­ces­sive speed, a dif­fi­cult curve be­fore the tracks and driver dis­trac­tion.

On Satur­day, Trans­port Canada of­fi­cials look at the da­m­age where a dou­ble-decker city bus struck a tran­sit shel­ter at the start of the af­ter­noon rush hour on Fri­day in Ot­tawa.

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