Ottawa

Bus driver cleared to drive a week before 2019 Westboro bus crash, court hears

Aissatou Diallo, the driver who crashed a double-decker into the Westboro bus station in 2019, was given the green light to continue working as a bus operator just a week before the fatal collision.

No evidence Aissatou Diallo was trained on double-decker emergency hand brake: defence

Aissatou Diallo has pleaded not guilty to all dangerous driving charges against her for the 2019 Westboro bus crash. Diallo was given the green light to drive again after a 2018 crash, the court heard Tuesday. (Raphael Tremblay/CBC)

The driver in the 2019 Westboro bus crash was cleared to continue driving for OC Transpo after an earlier collision, just a week before the fatal crash that killed three people and injured dozens.

Aissatou Diallo passed a re-training exercise designed by OC Transpo staff which had her driving an articulated bus — also known as an accordion or bendy bus  — on two routes.

Court was shown a Jan. 4, 2019 document that showed she passed her "in service assessment" after being involved in a collision. On Jan. 11, Diallo was driving a double-decker that crashed into the bus shelter at the Westboro station on the Transitway.

Diallo pleaded not guilty to all dangerous driving charges against her, including three counts of dangerous driving causing death.

Her trial by judge-alone resumed in the Ontario Court of Justice in Ottawa Tuesday.

Assistant Crown attorney Dallas Mack didn't elaborate on why Diallo's re-training was required, however, Diallo was involved in a collision involving an articulated bus in Dec. 2018

An OC Transpo articulated bus (also known as accordion bus) on Albert Street near Bank Street in October 2020. (Brian Morris/CBC)

The court was shown an email attributed to Diallo, where she said she would use what she learned from the Jan. 4 training to improve her driving in the future.

In the email, she thanked people involved in the training saying it was "a great therapeutic and learning opportunity" and that it helped regain her confidence after her accident.

Diallo was initially licensed as a driver in July 2018 after completing a 32-day course run by OC Transpo. She was among the 82 drivers that completed the program out of 145 trainees that year, the court heard.

Consistency of driver training questioned

The assessment document was tabled during the chief testimony of OC Transpo's  Lindsay Toll, the training and development manager.

Defence lawyer Fady Mansour provided Toll with a copy of Diallo's daily training record and asked him to review them.

Part of his question wasn't captured when the Zoom video restarted after a break. When asked about his question after the proceedings, Mansour said he inquired when Diallo was taught about the emergency hand brake on the double-decker bus.

Toll said the material was not noted in the records and may not have been taught.

Mansour questioned Toll on whether OC Transpo adequately tracked what its instructors teach, raising issues that were brought up in the 2020 municipal audit report.

Mansour referred to the report's finding that the amount of time drivers spent behind the wheel of different bus models could vary widely — with time on a double-decker ranging between one and 10.5 hours and three and 13.5 hours on an articulated bus.

An OC Transpo manager in charge of developing driver training told court operating a double-decker is virtually the same as a single-level 40-foot bus. (Ottawa Tourism)

Toll disagreed that bus operators need more time on a double-decker than typical buses.

"A bus is a bus. A 40-foot bus is a 40-foot bus," Toll said. "It's the same thing except you've got another bus piled on top of it. It's the same driving. Whether you're using your eye-lead, whether you're using your two hands on the steering wheel, it doesn't matter."

Toll added articulated buses do have some particularities due to their length and rear-driving.

The audit also said the "notion of bus availability" contributed to the discrepancy in how much time new drivers would get learning to drive different vehicles.

OC Transpo has changed its training regime to include a minimum amount of time driving vehicles. It trains its new bus operators on emergency braking in the first two days of their training program, Toll told the court.

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