Ottawa bus crash: Investigators simulate collision

Investigators with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada and from Ottawa police simulated elements of a bus-train crash that killed six people in the nation's capital.

Sept. 18 crash killed 6 people including bus driver, 5 passengers

Ian Naish says the time of day and sunlight are essential as TSB looks into fatal bus-train crash. 2:13

Investigators from the Transportation Safety Board and from Ottawa police’s collision unit were at the site of a fatal bus crash that shook the nation’s capital 10 days ago, simulating elements at the same time of day with similar environmental factors.

On Sept. 18, at 8:48 a.m. ET, an OC Transpo double-decker bus travelling Route 76 north from Barrhaven to downtown Ottawa crossed a level rail crossing and struck Via Rail passenger train 51 travelling west.

In the resulting collision the front end of the bus sheared off, six people were killed and more than 30 people were injured.

It was an incident that shook the community of Barrhaven, the city of Ottawa and prompted the TSB investigation that is expected to take months to complete.

Investigators re-enacted the situation at 8:48 a.m. ET, the time when a city bus crashed into a Via Rail passenger train in south Ottawa on Sept. 18. (CBC)

TSB investigators were on site running double-decker buses at the railway crossing and a Via Rail train along the track at 8:48 a.m. ET Saturday to learn more about factors that could have contributed to the crash.

The CBC’s Ashley Burke said investigators examined the driver’s perception including the visibility of the train, any sound or visual cues, as well as the sight lines from the road and any environmental factors.

Ian Naish, who led 180 investigations during 11 years as the TSB's head of rail investigations, said he only re-enacted crashes six times.

But he said, in this case, the re-enactment would help nail down possible factors.

Time of day critical to simulation

"There's a lot of witnesses, which is great, but there's going to be conflicting witness information," said Naish, who now runs a transportation consulting firm.

"You have to recreate the conditions of the day, where it was a sunny day, early morning, because you have to identify issues and eliminate them. Test to see if they were actually critical issues or not."

Naish said, during simulations, investigators equip the buses with recording equipment. In this case, one investigator would drive around the curve near the railway crossing to test visibility. He did say it is difficult to simulate a full double-decker bus with passengers standing, but the sun issue has to be tested at the exact time of the crash.

"You've got to get the time right for the sun issue because there's a certain time of day when the sun is more or less in the same position as it was on the day of the accident and that's what you really want to look into," Naish added.

5 of 6 crash victims laid to rest

Ottawa police also said they would be at the crash site conducting a parallel investigation near the intersection of Fallowfield Road and Woodroffe Avenue, until 2 p.m. ET Saturday. 

This past week, five of the six crash victims were laid to rest:

  • Michael Bleakney, 57, a civil servant.
  • Karen Krzyzewski, 53, a civil servant.
  • Rob More, 35, who worked at IBM.
  • Kyle Nash, 21, a university student.
  • Connor Boyd, 21, a university student.

The memorial service for the bus driver, 45-year-old Dave Woodard, is being held this Wednesday, Oct. 2.

This past week, Ottawa police said they had possible new information about the crash after a man passed along amateur video of the crash, which will be added to evidence being gathered.


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