Driver in deadly 2019 bus crash was equipped to handle conditions, testifies instructor

Bus drivers are equipped to handle situations where intense sun shines through their windshields like on the day of the fatal 2019 Westboro bus crash, testified an OC Transpo instructor at the trial of the driver accused.

Bus drivers trained to handle intense sun, says OC Transpo driving instructor

This photo shows the driver's seat of the test bus that was used in a reconstruction video that was part of the 2019 Westboro bus crash investigation. (Trial Exhibit/Ontario Court of Justice)

Bus drivers are equipped to handle situations where intense sun shines through their windshields like on the day of the fatal 2019 Westboro bus crash, testified an OC Transpo instructor at the trial of the driver accused.

Aissatou Diallo, who was driving the westbound double-decker that crashed into the Westboro Transitway station on Jan. 11, 2019, has pleaded not guilty to all dangerous driving charges against her related to the Ottawa crash — including three counts of dangerous driving causing death.

Justice Matthew Webber is presiding over Diallo's judge-alone trial in the Ontario Court of Justice in Ottawa. 

The examination-in-chief of Christopher Chenier, a full-time instructor and former bus operator with OC Transpo, concluded Wednesday after a week.

Assistant Crown attorney Louise Tansey asked Chenier questions about driver training, vehicle inspections, scheduling and how drivers handle challenging situations.

When shown video of the approach to the Westboro bus station taken from the double-decker's windshield moments before the crash, Chenier said the camera didn't show an accurate picture of what drivers see from their seats.

"It's nothing that we never encountered before and [would] not be able to adjust to," Chenier said of the video.

Chenier said drivers can use an automatic sun visor, a manual sun visor on their driver-side window, sunglasses or adjust their seat position to shield themselves from intense sun. He said he doesn't wear prescription sunglasses himself when driving a bus because of the "constant in-and-out of tunnels, the darkness and light."

WATCH | Warning some viewers may find the following video disturbing:

Video shows journey toward Westboro station before crash

10 months ago
Duration 0:09
This video, facing out the front windshield of the bus, shows the vehicle hitting the shoulder of the transitway moments before colliding with the bus shelter at Westboro station. 0:09

Chenier also participated in an Ottawa police-directed reconstruction using another double-decker bus and driving down the Transitway in the section between Tunney's Pasture and Westboro station.

The court was shown part of the video taken using two cameras mounted closer to the driver's position, including one that Chenier said was positioned over his right shoulder.

In previous cross-examinations, the defence has raised questions about painted-over lane markings from a construction detour that appear to be re-emerging in photos taken at the scene the day after the collision and in the dashboard video.

Chenier said there are several ways drivers are notified of construction detours, including the use of pylons, bulletin books at drivers' lounges, a "Driver's Seat" website available to people filling in on routes they aren't used to, and through radio communication.

Chenier also said drivers are responsible for safely pulling their vehicle over should they suspect any problems with its operation.

"At any time an operator feels unsafe, it is their responsibility to bring the vehicle to an immediate stop," Chenier said.

He said drivers can also choose not to pick up passengers if they're concerned the bus is too full — most importantly if their view of the front door is obstructed by passengers who can't get behind the yellow line.

The spring brake lever, located to the left of the double-decker's steering wheel, was shown in the Westboro bus crash trial. (Trial Exhibit/Ontario Court of Justice)

Chenier said drivers can call in a "status six" to notify dispatch when they are not stopping to pick up more passengers because of capacity issues. He said a double-decker carrying about 90 passengers, as was the case in the collision, is normal.

Chenier described the 32-day minimum new bus operator training program and the defensive driving techniques that are taught, including "eye lead," the principle of looking ahead down the road to spot obstacles, and hovering over the brake. 

He said drivers are also taken to a controlled, secure location to practise using the air brake or "spring brake," which locks the rear-axle allowing for a quicker stop.

Chenier is expected to undergo cross-examination by defence lawyer Fady Mansour Thursday.

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