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No easy answers to questions swirling around fatal Ottawa bus crash: police chief

Officials from Transport Canada look at the scene where a double-decker city bus struck a transit shelter at the start of the afternoon rush hour on Friday, at Westboro Station in Ottawa, on Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
January 12, 2019 - 2:30 PM

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.

But Bordeleau said 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."

Bordeleau said the bus was at or near its full capacity at the time of the collision. Sgt. Cameron Graham, of the force's collision investigation unit, said investigators would conduct multiple drone flights over the scene of the wreckage, as well as gather data from the vehicle itself and any available video surveillance.

Bordeleau said 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," he 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."

Bordeleau 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 minus-15, 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.

"I want to send my deepest condolences to the families of victims and everyone affected by today's tragic bus crash in Ottawa. Thank you to the first responders who rushed to help — we’re monitoring the situation closely," Trudeau said in a tweet Friday evening.

This is the second deadly collision involving a double-decker bus in Ottawa in the last six years.

In 2013, another Ottawa double-decker bus broke through a warning gate and collided with a Via Rail train in suburban Barrhaven, killing six people as the train sheared off the front of the vehicle. In that case, an investigation found that the cause was a combination of excessive speed, a difficult curve before the tracks and driver distraction.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2019
The Canadian Press

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