Bus driver was in state of shock after Westboro crash, pretrial hearing told

The driver of the OC Transpo double-decker bus that crashed into a bus shelter at Ottawa’s Westboro station in 2019 was described as being in a state of shock as she spoke to first responders in the aftermath of the crash.

Aissatou Diallo has pleaded not guilty in 2019 crash that killed 3 people

The Jan. 11, 2019, collision at the Westboro Transitway station killed three people and injured dozens more. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

The driver of the OC Transpo double-decker that crashed into a bus shelter at Ottawa's Westboro station in 2019 was in a state of shock in the immediate aftermath, according to statements given at a two-day pretrial hearing.

The Ontario Court of Justice heard this week from people who participated in the emergency response, as part of pretrial motions to determine if Aissatou Diallo's statements to them were voluntary — and therefore admissible — in her upcoming trial. 

Diallo is charged with three counts of dangerous driving causing death and 35 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm, for the Jan. 11, 2019 collision that killed Judy Booth, Bruce Thomlinson and Anja Van Beek.

She has pleaded not guilty to all charges, and none have been proven in court.

After two days in the pretrial hearing, the defence conceded Diallo's statements to officials immediately following the crash were voluntary in the context presented. Justice Matthew Webber agreed.

Supervisor describes emotional interaction

On Monday, the court heard audio of Diallo calling in the collision to OC Transpo in the minutes after it happened. She said she lost balance and that firefighters were going to be needed to help people trapped on the double-decker's top floor.

OC Transpo transit supervisor Jason Guillemette also described seeing Diallo at the scene, seated on the station platform between two passengers. He said she appeared to have been crying, so he checked if she was injured and went to console her.

He said Diallo held onto him and said, "I can't believe I did this." Guillemette said she kept saying the bus was full and she couldn't stop it in time.

Aissatou Diallo, centre, approaches the Elgin Street courthouse in Ottawa with her defence lawyers Fady Mansour, left, and Solomon Friedman, right, on March 8, 2021. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

'I was on her side,' says officer

Ottawa police Const. Corey Bourguignon told the court that he spoke to Diallo at the scene after she was identified as the driver, and his intention was to make sure she could get medical care if needed.

When she appeared to be fine, Bourguignon said he took her to an OC Transpo special constable vehicle to warm up. 

While there, he took her driver's licence information. He said she opened up about the crash, saying that the double-decker had been full of passengers and was swaying from side-to-side, statements he included in his duty notebook.

Bourguignon said she kept asking if people had died, and he said he didn't know the answer at the time. He said he was not asking her for information, but told her she could call family and said he'd help her speak to a supervisor.

"I was treating her like she was a victim," he said.

Bourguignon said he moved Diallo to his police vehicle because he thought she should be farther away from the traumatizing crash scene, where paramedics were still helping passengers.

About half an hour after he took Diallo's driver's licence information, Bourguignon said he cautioned Diallo she didn't need to tell him anything about the collision and that she wasn't under arrest.

He said he cautioned her again when he told her three people were confirmed to have died in the crash. He said that information left her very upset.

Bourguignon said he was given the order to arrest her after letting her leave his vehicle, but he decided not to put handcuffs on her. 

While that was a breach of Ottawa police protocol, Bourguignon said he was aware of the presence of media and bystanders with cameras on their phones and he didn't want the image to be exploited or sensationalized on a newspaper's front page.

"I was on her side," Bourguignon told the court.

Defence says officer failed to warn Diallo

During cross-examination on Tuesday, defence lawyer Solomon Friedman said while the officer may have cautioned Bourguignon that she didn't need to talk to him about the crash — he never warned her that he may be testifying against her someday in her criminal trial.

"I would never have guessed ... we would be sitting here having this conversation," Bourguignon said.

Friedman also suggested it was unusual for him to put Diallo in the back of a special constable and police vehicle, both of which lock automatically, if he were treating her as a victim.

Friedman said other officers' notes mentioned that Diallo was to be brought to the central police station for questioning by officer who was with her — a communication that Bourguignon said he didn't recall.

All the updates he received about the crash, and the grounds that led to Diallo's arrest, came through his platoon sergeant, Bourguignon said.

The trial is expected to begin on March 22.

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