Ottawa

If you see Elizabeth: Family asks OC Transpo riders to help daughter regain confidence

A Kanata family is asking the bus-riding community to help their daughter, who has Down syndrome, regain her confidence as she recovers from the shock of Friday's fatal bus collision.

Elizabeth Langan, who has Down syndrome, was on bus that crashed Friday, killing 3

Lyne Filion is helping her daughter Elizabeth regain her confidence and independence following the fatal OC Transpo bus crash. (Robyn Miller/CBC)

A Kanata family is asking the bus-riding community to help their daughter, who has Down syndrome, regain her confidence as she recovers from the shock of Friday's fatal bus collision.

Elizabeth Langan, 25, was on her way home to Bridlewood from Bronson Centre, where she's enrolled in a weekly art program, when her Route 269 bus slammed into an overhang at Westboro station, killing three people and injuring many more.

Her mother, Lyne Filion, was waiting for her at home when the phone rang. It was Elizabeth, and she was hysterical. She told her mother there'd been an accident, and that she was at Bayshore.

"So I said, 'Elizabeth, I'm going to hang up and call Daddy and he's going to come right away to pick you up," Filion recalled. 

Lyne Filion is grateful to the passenger who helped her daughter following the crash, and to the other community members who have offered their support. (Robyn Miller/CBC)

Call from a stranger

At first, Filion didn't grasp how serious the crash had been, but then her phone rang again. This time it was a stranger calling.

"She said, 'Hi, I'm with your daughter, Elizabeth. We had a very serious bus accident. She's really upset and we're at Westboro station."

Filion said the woman, a neighbour she didn't know well, told her she was going to try to shield Elizabeth from the horror of the scene while they waited for Filion's husband to arrive.

"I could hear [Elizabeth] in the background crying and being really upset, and it broke my heart that I couldn't be there to support her," Filion said through tears.

"We just thanked [the woman] and appreciated everything that she did for her."

Lyne Filion, whose daughter Elizabeth Langan was on OC Transpo bus 269 that slammed into Westboro station Friday, is thankful for the woman who shielded her from the aftermath. 1:01

Aches and pains

Simon Langan arrived at Westboro station about 45 minutes after the crash and located his daughter in another bus, where passengers involved in the crash had been sent to speak with police and stay warm.

Within about an hour, he and Elizabeth were finally on their way home.

The following day, Elizabeth started complaining of aches and pains. On Sunday she began having "drop attacks," when low blood pressure causes her to fall to the floor.

"She hadn't had those in years," Filion said. "So then we realized, OK, something is going on here."

They took Elizabeth to the hospital, where they discovered she had suffered serious whiplash.

That was the extent of her physical injuries, but her family fears the invisible damage could take longer to heal.

Regaining her confidence

As the terrifying scope of what Elizabeth experienced on Friday sets in, her family is working to help her regain her confidence and get back on the bus — a key to the young woman's independence, her mother said.

Elizabeth Langan takes her first bus ride after surviving the fatal double-decker bus crash on Friday. (Lyne Filion)

On Tuesday, Filion and Elizabeth boarded an OC Transpo bus to Hazeldean Mall. Filion said the test run went well, but she worries about what might trigger her daughter when she takes her next trip alone.

"That would be terrifying for a young woman — well, for anyone — but a young woman with Down syndrome specifically, also because when your emotions are high it's hard for you to be verbal, hard for you to express yourself."

With her daugher's permission, Filion posted photos of Elizabeth on a community Facebook page to alert other riders that her daughter may become upset and need their support. 

The response has been overwhelming, with dozens of comments offering words of encouragement and support.

Elizabeth appreciates it all.

"I just want to say thank you for the hugs and their hearts and the support they have given me," she said.