Ottawa

OC Transpo driver in fatal bus crash didn't brake or steer from collision course, trial told

The driver of the OC Transpo bus that crashed into Westboro Transitway station in 2019, leaving three people dead and dozens injured, didn't apply the brakes or attempt to steer away from her collision course, the Crown said Monday at the opening of her trial in Ottawa.

Aissatou Diallo has pleaded not guilty to dangerous driving causing death and bodily harm in 2019 Ottawa crash

Aissatou Diallo, 44, has pleaded not guilty to three charges of dangerous driving causing death and 35 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm in the 2019 OC Transpo bus crash. The trial started Monday. (Raphael Tremblay/CBC)

The driver of the OC Transpo double-decker bus that crashed into Westboro Transitway station in 2019, leaving three people dead and dozens injured, didn't apply the brakes or attempt to steer away from her collision course, the Crown said Monday at the opening of her trial in Ottawa.

Aissatou Diallo, 44, has pleaded not guilty to three charges of dangerous driving causing death and 35 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.

In her opening statement, Crown attorney Louise Tansey broke down the moments before the collision — advancing a video from Westboro station second by second — as the bus drifted from the express lane, through the service lane for stopping buses, and mounted the curb, striking the Transitway's rock wall and, finally, a bus shelter.

Tansey said the Crown is not arguing Diallo woke up that morning with "malice" in her heart.

"For at least 15 seconds, Ms. Diallo abdicated her responsibilities as a professional driver carrying 85 of the national capital's residents and drove them, without any meaningful braking, off the road and into the Westboro transit station."

The judge-alone trial before Justice Matthew Webber is in the Ontario Court of Justice and expected to last eight weeks.

Video to serve as 'silent witnesses'

Diallo had driven the same route without incident twice that month, including the day before the collision, said Tansey.

The Crown said it will rely on "silent witnesses," cameras that record without audio on the interior and exterior of the bus, at the transitway station, and video from 10 other buses that were in the station around the time of the collision, including the one that had been directly following the bus driven by Diallo.

The Crown will also present video from the bus's cockpit that includes audio. 

A tow truck pulls away a damaged OC Transpo bus from Westboro station on Jan. 12, 2019. The double-decker bus struck the shelter the day before. (Idil Mussa/CBC)

The Crown says expert testimony will show the double-decker Diallo was driving, designated No. 8155, was in excellent working order, and the steering and brakes were even functional after the collision.

The driver who operated the double-decker in the hours before Diallo took over at 3 p.m. ET had an "uneventful" shift and the bus "ran smoothly."

The prosecutor said evidence will show the bus was regularly maintained, and Diallo was a properly trained and licensed bus operator.

The Crown will also call an Ontario Provincial Police detective, who is expected to explain his analysis of on-board data recording on the bus, including what fault alarms may have been triggered, recorded speed and application of the brakes.

Unclear markings

During cross-examination of the trial's first witness, OC Transpo Special Const. Steve Delaney, the defence raised questions about unclear lane markings.

Defence lawyer Solomon Friedman said an orange line that indicated a detour during 2018 construction on the McRae Avenue footbridge had become visible from underneath the black paint that had been used to cover it when work was done.

Friedman tendered drone photos of the approach to Westboro station from Tunney's Pasture under the footbridge that were taken the day after the collision, as well as photos from the summer and fall of 2018 during construction.

The defence lawyer also showed photos taken from the double-decker's windshield camera in the seconds leading up to the crash that showed glare from the afternoon sun lighting up the line.

During the summer construction, a detour narrowed the westbound lane to the point that the roadside gutter was filled in temporarily to allow buses headed in that direction to drive on it.

Delaney suggested the way the gutter was filled with snow and ice around the time of the collision, it would have been hard to differentiate from temporary pavement.

The special constable said he would have raised the issue of lane markings with road maintenance crews, but he had also said he hadn't noticed or reported any such issue around the time of the collision.

Sketch shows Justice Matthew Webber, left, presiding over Diallo's trial on Monday, with OC Transpo Special Const. Steven Delaney as a witness. (Lauren Foster-MacLeod)

Friedman argued the drone photos presented a very different picture from Google Earth screen shots presented earlier by the Crown that show the station in the summer with clearly painted road markings, something Delaney acknowledged.

The defence also suggested this line appeared at a "decision point" where bus operators must pick a lane as they travel through Westboro station heading west from Tunney's Pasture.

During re-examination, the Crown asked the special constable whether he would have treated the line shown in the windshield camera photo as a solid centre line if he were driving on the Transitway.

"From my experience, it wouldn't be a line I would follow," said Delaney.

The trial resumes Tuesday at 10 a.m.

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