Crash victims ID'd in Ottawa
Sep 19, 2013 / 10:20 pm
Ottawa police have identified the six victims that died following a deadly collision between a double-decker bus and a Via Rail train.
Police have not released all of their names but say they include five men and one woman between 21 and 57 years of age.
On Wednesday, Ottawa police identified OC Transpo bus driver David Woodard as one of the victims of the crash. Colleagues say the 45-year-old was married and had a good driver record.
Via Rail crews continue work at the crash site between a Via Rail rain and double-decker OC Transpo bus driver, early Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013.
A second victim, Carleton University student Connor Boyd, has also been identified through social media by friends and family.
His mother was among those who attended a vigil Wednesday night, at the site of the crash where the Ottawa city bus and Via Rail Train 51 collided at a level crossing during the morning commute.
Dozens of people took part in a group prayer and some sang “Amazing Grace” while holding lit candles. Some OC Transpo staff also attended, wearing their full uniforms.
Flags at Ottawa facilities are flying at half-mast Thursday to honour the victims of the crash. A condolence book is also available at city hall.
Five people who were on board the OC Transpo bus were pronounced dead at the scene and another later died in hospital. Thirty-four people were transported to Ottawa-area hospitals.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said city officials are doing "whatever they can" to comfort the victims’ families. He said he hasn’t personally reached out to them and is waiting for police to release the names of all the victims.
"Now is the time for them to grieve with their fellow family members and friends," Watson told CTV’s Canada AM on Thursday.
Witnesses, survivors describe deadly crash
Bus passengers who survived the crash described people yelling at the driver to slow down seconds before the impact, but it was too late. Witnesses said the level railway crossing's warning lights were flashing and the gate was down when the crash occurred at 8:48 a.m. ET, near the intersection of Woodroffe Avenue and Fallowfield Road.
The front of the OC Transpo bus was sheared off in the collision.
Ajoy Bista, who was sitting on the upper deck of the bus, describes seeing the collision happen "frame by frame."
"It seemed like it was a movie,” Bista told Canada AM. "The bus kept on speeding and then when the bus didn’t stop… people were shouting ‘stop, stop.'"
Bista described seeing debris "flying everywhere" followed by chaos.
"I could hear people crying, screaming," he said. "There were dead bodies, limbs. I can’t even describe it in words."
It is not known how many people were on board at the time of the crash, but the double-decker bus can carry an approximately 90 passengers. Several passengers who take the bus regularly said the driver appeared to be new to the route.
The impact derailed the Via Rail locomotive and one passenger car, but no injuries were reported on board the Train 51 headed from Montreal to Toronto.
Via Rail says its service between Toronto and Ottawa is disrupted Thursday, with several of its scheduled trains being replaced by chartered busses. Details of the affected trains are posted on the Via website.
Normal service is being provided between Montreal and Ottawa.
Investigation into crash may take months
Asked about safety concerns about the level crossing where the collision occurred, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said the city is gathering information to provide to the Transportation Safety Board.
"I don’t think it helps the memory of the victims or those people who were on the bus to start speculating about things that we quite frankly don’t have all the information for. It does a disservice in my opinion on what we should be concentrating on."
Watson added, however, that all of the city’s rail crossings have been certified.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is leading an investigation with the help of Ottawa police and the coroner's office. In addition to checking the warning systems and the gate at the railway crossing to make sure they were working correctly at the time of the accident, they will be reviewing data from event recorders on the train and bus.
Crews using special equipment brought in from Montreal pulled the derailed train cars upright by Thursday morning. It is not clear when the train, or the double-decker bus still at the site of the crash are expected to be removed.
In comments Wednesday, TSB lead investigator Glen Pilon said it was too soon to say what speed either vehicle was travelling at the time of the crash, or whether the drivers attempted to brake.
The TSB will also will be checking the warning systems and the gate at the railway crossing to make sure they were working correctly at the time of the accident.
Pilon couldn't say what speed either vehicle was travelling at the time of the crash, or whether the drivers attempted to break.
He did say, however, that Via crossings are a concern for the TSB since they involve passengers, rather than goods.
"They're just on our watch list," Pilon explained. "Because of the chance for the loss of life, it's one of those things we want to make sure doesn't happen again."
The full TSB investigation could take months to complete, said chief operating officer Jean Laporte.
Local officials said there have been no accidents at the intersection where the crash occurred since 2002 –- the year the city started keeping traffic records for that area.
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