Transport Minister Lisa Raitt on safety concerns over rail level crossings and whether tighter regulations are needed
The CBC's Adrienne Arsenault unpacks the moments before and after a deadly crash between an Ottawa bus and train. Along the way she explores the questions that are now being raised about the driver, vehicle he drove and the intersection where the accident happened.
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The Ottawa city bus involved in a horrific crash with a Via passenger train Wednesday that left six people dead has been towed away from the scene.
The OC Transpo bus, which hit the side of the train as it was passing through a level crossing on Wednesday morning, is expected to be moved to a storage unit for further investigation by the Transportation Safety Board.
The investigators will be looking at data obtained from recorders on both vehicles for clues as to what caused the crash. They'll also be analyzing other physical evidence gathered at the scene, as well as going over witness accounts.
"We're looking at everything, everything is on the table," said TSB manager Rob Johnston.
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The "black box" event recorder from the locomotive of Via Rail Train 51 has been removed and investigators have downloaded information from it.
Via was ordered to equip its trains with cameras after a crash last year, but the process hasn't yet been completed and the train involved in Wednesday's crash did not have a front camera, said Johnston.
Investigators also have some information from the event recorder of the Route 76 OC Transpo bus involved in the crash, but Johnston said it isn't clear what it might contain.
Earlier, investigators said they believe the bus hit the side of the train when the crash happened Wednesday morning at a level crossing in the south Ottawa community of Barrhaven.
The front end of the bus was sheared off in the collision and five people were pronounced dead at the scene, including the driver. One bus passenger died later in hospital from injuries. More than 30 people were also injured in the crash.Ottawa police have identified all six victims of the collision. They are:
- David Woodard, 45, the driver and a 10-year veteran of OC Transpo.
- Connor Boyd, 21, a Carleton University student.
- Kyle Nash, 21, a Carleton University and Algonquin College student.
- Michael Bleakney, 57, a geotechnical engineer at Public Works.
- Karen Krzyzewski, 53, a mother of two who worked at Library and Archives Canada.
- Rob More, 35, an employee at the IBM building on Palladium Drive.
Injured people were also taken to several area hospitals, including 10 in critical condition. Three people with injuries from the crash checked into hospitals themselves.
Some of the injured were sent home with minor scrapes and bruises, while others awaited surgery. There were no serious injuries among train passengers.
Crash survivors struggle the day after
Several witnesses said the bus driver didn't brake at the rail crossing until moments before the collision but that it wasn't enough to stop the bus before hitting the train.
Greg Mech, who rode on the top of the double-decker bus, said from his perspective he thought the driver did not notice that the train track's signal lights were on and the gates were down.
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"People screamed on the bus shortly before the crash because he was not stopping," Mech told CBC News.
A day later, crash survivor Colleen Thomas said she was still haunted by what she saw Wednesday.
"At night, every time I would close my eyes, I would see the train hitting and ... I think I slept for 20 minutes last night. So I don't know. I'm just trying to process it," said Thomas.
"You just see the bodies, you see the twisted metal, the people, everyone running around. Just like the noise, people screaming, just like the impact of it is, I don't know, like I don't know how we're going to be able to get through this."
"We'll carry this with us for the rest of life. You don't get over that … I'll never be able to make that go away," she said.
Thursday morning, one woman who was on the bus when it crashed struggled to get on another bus, but met with OC Transpo supervisor Bob Denault, who had helped her get off the bus on Wednesday after the crash.
The woman let a few buses pass by before steeling herself and climbing on another double-decker, according to the CBC's Steve Fischer.
City to investigate level crossing
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said Wednesday he had asked the city manager to gather any and all information about whether the intersection should have an underpass or an overpass.
This comes years after the city decided against an underpass at the crossing due to the $80-million price tag, CBC News reported Wednesday.
“The whole issue of whether there should be an underpass or an overpass, we’re gathering all of that information. It was before my time as mayor, but I’ve asked for the city manager to gather that information and provide it to the Transportation Safety Board," he said.
"And what I indicated today publicly is that obviously any recommendations to improve safety that come out of this inquiry … we will do our utmost to adopt them.”
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Ottawa police said that since they began monitoring collisions in the area in 2002, that there have been no crashes at the intersection of the rail crossing and the Transitway.
Craig Watson, president of the union representing Ottawa city bus drivers, said members were reeling from the driver's death.
Watson said OC Transpo drivers have not had an issue with rail crossings in the past.
"Obviously we have that concern now," he told CBC News Network anchor Carol MacNeil.
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Commuter routes return to normal
The northbound lanes of Woodroffe Avenue, which runs parallel to the Transitway, have reopened to traffic while one lane of southbound traffic closest to the Transitway remains closed.
Via Rail service between Toronto and Ottawa is still affected, with some trains being replaced with bus service.
More than 100 people attended a vigil Wednesday for the victims in Barrhaven. Visitors lit candles, lay flowers and sang songs to remember those who lost their lives.
It’s such a community,” one man said, adding that when photos of the victims were released, he thought he'd recognize some of them from being out and about in the community.