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3 dead in bus crash at Ottawa transit station

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Three people were killed and nearly two dozen injured when an OC Transpo double-decker bus slammed into a bus shelter at Westboro station at the start of Friday afternoon rush hour.

The single-vehicle collision involving the westbound 269 bus to Kanata happened on the Transitway around 3:50 p.m. 

During a news conference Friday evening, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said two passengers and one person waiting on the platform died in the « horrific » crash, and 23 were injured.

The Ottawa Hospital said shortly after 8 p.m. that seven patients were in critical condition and nine in stable condition. 

One person was also taken by ambulance to the Queensway Carleton Hospital, although that patient’s condition has not yet been made public. There were no patients taken to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, indicating there were likely no children among the injured.

« Our hearts and condolences go out to all those injured [and] those family members who have lost loved ones, » Watson said. 

« Our thoughts are also with the others on that bus, at that station — those directly involved and those who witnessed the collision. »

Flags at City Hall have been lowered to half-mast, Watson said.

Police and first responders work at Westboro station where a double-decker OC Tranpo bus struck the shelter Friday Jan. 11, 2019. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

‘It was chaos’

Photos of the aftermath show scenes of chaos. One shows first responders aiding an injured person on the pavement in front of the double-decker bus, its front and part of its side shorn off. The front seats of the vehicle’s upper deck hang precariously from the gaping hole.

Bilal Gill was at the back of the top level of the « packed » bus when it started to swerve, then struck the shelter.

« A lot of people started screaming, [including the] people at the front who got pinned under their seats, » Gill said. « It was chaos at first. »

Gill said police showed up quickly and began breaking windows to free trapped riders.

« There was definitely people pinned. And there was a bit of blood on the floor, » Gill said.

Driver arrested

Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau told Friday night’s news conference that the most serious injuries occurred on the top right side of the bus, matching images from the scene.

Bordeleau said that « something » led officers to arrest the bus driver, but didn’t give specifics.

She was taken to police headquarters for further questioning, he said.

Late Friday, police released the driver pending further investigation.  

Bordeleau also said it was too early to speculate about the cause of the crash, but police would be poring over video and interviewing as many witnesses as possible.

« This will be a long investigation, » Bordeleau said. « Our investigators will be working through the night and into the morning to document the scene. »

‘Gut-wrenching’ scene

Ryan Baldasso, 34, travels the route by bus daily from his home in Kanata. On Friday, his bus passed by the scene shortly after the crash.

It’s horrible. You never want to see anything like that.– Ryan Baldasso

« It was pretty gut-wrenching to see. It’s horrible. You never want to see anything like that. Everyone just wants to get home safe to their families and never think about stuff like this happening. It’s horrible to witness something like that. »

Emergency crews were called to Westboro station in Ottawa following a collision involving a double-decker OC Transpo bus. (@gabesimages/Twitter)

Police say the investigation into Friday’s fatal collision involving an OC Transpo bus at Westboro station will be a long one. (@SaveOurSenators/Twitter)

‘Lineup of stretchers’

Emergency crews were cutting seats and windows out of the front of the bus, likely to get at passengers, said Gabe Rivett-Carnac.

« Everyone was certainly moving fairly quickly, » said Rivett-Carnac, who arrived at the station about half an hour after the crash.

« Just judging by the lineup of stretchers … I would say they were certainly acting with some urgency. »

He said he saw at least 30 emergency vehicles at the station.

‘Lots of people injured here’

On Broadcastify, an online service that provides access to emergency dispatch calls, a dispatcher can be heard saying: « I’m getting a double-decker that rammed into the bus terminal. There’s possibly people that are trapped in the bus. Multiple injuries. »

A short time later, a first responder reports from the scene: « Just on the second floor of the double-decker bus. There’s lots of people injured here. »

He later reports: « We’re on the side of the OC Transpo bus with a ladder trying to get people off of the second floor. … I don’t know how many ambulances we have on the way, but we’re going to need quite a few. »

As of 6 p.m., emergency responders were still on the scene, as well as the Ottawa Police Service’s collision investigation unit.

Officials from Transport Canada and Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation are also investigating.

Transitway closed

OC Transpo general manager John Manconi told Friday’s news conference the bus could have been holding as many as 90 passengers.

He said OC Transpo’s « top priority » was the safety of its passengers and that the agency would be cooperating fully with the investigation.

As of 7:20 p.m., the Transitway was still closed in both directions between Westboro station and Tunney’s Pasture station, as was Scott Street near the scene of the crash.

Drivers are being urged to avoid the area, and OC Transpo buses were still being detoured.

People seeking information about family members involved in Friday’s crash can go to the Churchill Seniors Centre at 345 Richmond Rd., the City of Ottawa said. 

They can also call the Canadian Red Cross at 1-855-797-8875.

With files from Denise Fung, Matthew Kupfer, Christine Maki, Joanne Chianello, Tom Parry and Trevor Pritchard

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Anglais

‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Anglais

Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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