Unprecedented outpouring of grief at sentencing for truck driver in Humboldt Broncos bus crash

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MELFORT—Chris Joseph has seen the seasons change from summer to fall and now, to frigid mid-winter, at a memorial set up for his son and 15 others killed at the intersection in April when a semitruck ran through a stop sign and collided with the Humboldt Broncos team bus.

Something about the stillness of winter adds to its solemnity.

At the rural Saskatchewan intersection of Highway 35 and Highway 335, 16 green crosses stand emblazoned with the names of the people killed in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash on April 6, 2018.
At the rural Saskatchewan intersection of Highway 35 and Highway 335, 16 green crosses stand emblazoned with the names of the people killed in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash on April 6, 2018.  (Claire Theobald / StarMetro Edmonton)

The cluster of crosses sits by the side of the rural Saskatchewan intersection of Highway 35 and Highway 335, itself in the middle of four corners of open Canadian prairie, flat and featureless except for a small stand of trees.

Joseph, a former NHL player, has come to find a moment’s peace in the place where nine months earlier his son, Jaxon Joseph, was left lying lifeless in the snow. He points out the ways in which the memorial has grown each time he has visited: first came 16 simple white crosses, then 16 green hockey stick crosses were driven into the ground, and draped with Humboldt Broncos jerseys.

The green and yellow ribbons — the team’s colours — photographs and various trinkets, a cowboy hat, some plastic beaded necklaces, accumulated over time.

“The day you took my son Jaxon from me was the worst day of my life and will remain that way forever,” he said, recalling the horrors he and his family suffered when his son died in the crash.

“I never thought in my life I would be kissing my dead son’s eyelids, nose, cheeks and lips over and over again, as I knew it would be the last time I would feel my son’s skin under my lips. If I could have, I would have stayed with him, beside him until the moment his dead body couldn’t stand the warmth,” said Jaxon’s mother, Andrea Joseph, sobbing as she recalled desperately rubbing her son’s legs and holding him close, hoping her warmth would breathe new life into his still body.

Family and friends of the 16 people killed and 13 people injured spent three days recounting the trauma of the crash and the suffering they continue to endure because of truck driver Jaskirat Singh Sidhu.

There were too many people to fit inside the local Melfort, Sask., courthouse, so 200 plastic chairs were set up in the Kerry Vickar Centre’s gymnasium to accommodate the weeklong hearing.

Both the Crown and defence involved in Sidhu’s sentencing said it was one of the most difficult and emotional hearings they had ever been a part of, with around 80 victim impact statements read aloud or filed privately with the court.

“Mr. Sidhu’s crime had wide-ranging and devastating consequences for the families and friends of everyone who was in the bus crash,” said Crown prosecutor Thomas Healey.

“My hockey stick remains outside of my door,” said defence lawyer Glen Luther.

Sidhu pleaded guilty to 16 charges of dangerous driving causing death and 13 charges of dangerous driving causing injury, taking full responsibility for causing the crash.

Rising from his seat to address the families Thursday, Sidhu turned to face them, heaving a heavy sigh before delivering an apology. “I cannot imagine what you are going through or what you have been through,” said Sidhu. “I have taken the most valuable things in your life.”

After he spoke, Sidhu sat back in his chair and cried.

But those who came to hear Sidhu offer an explanation left empty-handed.

“I can’t tell people what happened, he simply doesn’t know,” said defence lawyer Mark Brayford in his sentencing submissions.

Sidhu said he didn’t even know he had been in a crash until he crawled out the door of the overturned cab of his truck and heard the victims screaming.

According to the RCMP’s forensic collision reconstruction report, on April 6, the semi was hauling two trailers loaded with peat moss when it blew through a stop sign at the intersection of Highway 35 and Highway 335, near Armley, Sask., at around 5 p.m., just as the Humboldt Broncos team bus was approaching the intersection.

Sidhu drove past four signs and signals that should have warned him of the upcoming intersection that lined the highway nearly half a kilometre before the crash site.

“This wasn’t a rolling stop, this was more like a rocket,” said Healey.

The bus driver slammed on the brakes, skidding 24 metres, but it was too late. The bus hit the semi at nearly 100 km/h.

There was no way the bus could have avoided the crash.

The damage was catastrophic.

The bus was ripped into three pieces, the front third of the bus and the entire roof were torn from the twisted frame, the condition of the front of the bus described coldly as “nonsurvivable.”

Tanya LaBelle said images of the “dread-filled scene” replay vividly in their minds.

“The faces, the voices, the sounds, the vehicles, ambulances, helicopters,” Tanya, Xavier LaBelle’s mother, recalled through tears. “The panic, the agony, the horror.”

“Nothing can prepare a parent for the heart-wrenching carnage that was before me,” said his father, Paul LaBelle, who ran desperately down the highway toward the crash site before being stopped by an RCMP officer.

Families were redirected to local hospitals, hoping their child’s name would be on the list.

The mass of casualties overwhelmed the local hospital and funeral home.

In the confusion, the LaBelles were told their son hadn’t survived the crash while standing only 50 feet away from where their son lay screaming in anguish in a hospital bed.

When they were called to the funeral home with other families to identify their loved one among the dead, the LaBelles weren’t sure if it was grief preventing them from recognizing their son from the only bodies left unaccounted for.

Two days later, they would receive the call the other families had longed to hear — there had been a mistake, their son, Xavier was alive.

But any joy the LaBelles felt at learning their son was one of 13 survivors was tempered by the realization that another family, Parker Tobin’s — who had sat vigil at Xavier LaBelle’s bedside for two days believing he was their son — had inherited their loss.

Xavier LaBelle had survived the crash. Parker Tobin had not.

It was difficult for Parker Tobin’s father, Edward Tobin, to put his family’s loss into words.

“At times, the grief is overwhelming and you’re not sure how you are going to make it through the day,” he said. “The grief is often triggered by things you wouldn’t expect, like seeing young kids play at the local park. Those simple things that bring back his childhood memories. You smile for a moment as you remember a happier time, then collapse as you realize there will be no more memories.”

Humboldt Broncos assistant coach Chris Beaudry was called by the coroner to help identify the bodies, some disfigured beyond recognition.

Staff wouldn’t have time to stop working on the corpses while he viewed them, the coroner warned. Beaudry didn’t want to do it, but it was the only way he could help.

As he moved from gurney to gurney trying to recognize the faces of the young men he had once coached behind their injuries, flashes of recognition were chased with memories of who they were in life.

The sounds of bones being set, the zipping of body bags, skin being sewn, still haunt him.

“In my dreams, I would relive the funeral home scene over and over for months. I would wake up in cold sweats and couldn’t go back to sleep. The PTSD triggers were as bad as the nightmares,” Beaudry said.

Nine months later and they are still suffering.

“All of us families grieve every day, we will for the rest of our lives,” said Scott Thomas, father of Evan Thomas, who died in the crash.

The loved ones of those killed spoke of their unending grief, and family and friends of survivors spoke of their struggle to find a new normal as the futures they had planned now look drastically different. Dreams dashed, bodies broken, hope lost.

The rural Saskatchewan intersection where truck driver Jaskirat Singh Sidu ran a stop sign and collided with the Humboldt Broncos team bus on April 6, 2018, as seen on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019.
The rural Saskatchewan intersection where truck driver Jaskirat Singh Sidu ran a stop sign and collided with the Humboldt Broncos team bus on April 6, 2018, as seen on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019.  (Claire Theobald/StarMetro Edmonton)

At every brief intermission, those gathered in the gallery would offer each other support.

Warm hugs, dry tissues, handshakes and knowing smiles are the physical manifestations of the bond formed between these families who know each other’s pain all too well.

“The crash has forever tied us together,” said Bernadine Boulet, mother of Logan Boulet, 21, who died from his injuries after the collision.

After three days of heart-wrenching testimony, lawyers entered into their sentencing submissions trying to offer guidance to Justice Inez Cardinal in a case of dangerous driving unprecedented in its harm.

“We haven’t seen a case like this in Canada,” said Healey.

The maximum sentence available for Sidhu’s dangerous driving causing death charges is 14 years behind bars for each offence, and dangerous driving causing injury comes with a maximum sentence of 10 years.

While Sidhu pleaded guilty and has demonstrated genuine remorse, Healey argued that as a professional truck driver, Sidhu had been trained and should have been held to a higher standard of road safety.

“This wasn’t just an accident, this was a crime,” said Healey, recommending a sentence of 10 years in prison.

There were four signs leading up to the intersection that Sidhu, for reasons unknown, was completely oblivious to, Healey said. The intersection itself is marked with an oversized stop sign and a flashing light.

“How does someone miss all of those signs?” Healey said, emphasizing the egregiousness of Sidhu’s carelessness.

Sidhu’s defence argued that while the consequences of his actions were grave, they were a result of simple negligence and not deliberate recklessness, “barely over the line” between a tragic oversight and a criminal act, Luther said.

While they did not make their own suggestion for the length of a suitable sentence, Brayford said that many of those who described the pain and anguish caused to them by the crash also called for mercy in Sidhu’s sentencing.

“We’re not as simplistic as an eye for an eye,” said Brayford.

“I don’t hate you. When I look at you, I see a young man not much older than our son, Mark,” said Marilyn Cross, mother of Mark Cross, who did not survive the collision. “I grieve for the guilt you must carry for the rest of your days.”

Paul Jefferson, who was a billet father to both Parker Tobin, who died, and Tyler Smith, who survived, said his faith called him to forgive.

“His life should not be ruined by this mistake, that would make him the 30th victim of this tragedy,” he said.

Court has heard Jaskirat Singh Sidhu blew through a stop sign and into the path of the junior hockey team's bus in rural Saskatchewan last April.
Court has heard Jaskirat Singh Sidhu blew through a stop sign and into the path of the junior hockey team’s bus in rural Saskatchewan last April.  (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Other families called for a harsher punishment to deter unscrupulous truck drivers and transport companies from making the same mistakes.

“We need to fight for these boys, the 29 people who were on that bus. As a mom, when you can’t help your child, and you can’t protect them and hold them, the only way I can help is by fighting and sticking up for what is right. This country needs to crack down, we need to have stricter rules and stricter laws,” said Andrea Joseph, calling for Sidhu to serve the maximum sentence.

Judge Cardinal said it would take time for her to review all of the materials and victim impact statements before making her decision, and adjourned Sidhu’s sentencing until March 22.

Jennifer Quaid, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, said the recommended sentence is “very harsh” and she suspects the actual sentence to be lower, in part because Sidhu pleaded guilty and expressed sincere remorse.

“I’m not sure that we can actually make him suffer more than he’s suffering now,” she said.

“He has done everything the criminal justice system wants an offender to do. He has recognized his responsibility, he has apologized, he has not tried to put up a fight.”

However, because there is no precedent for a case like this, Quaid said it is ultimately “anyone’s guess” what the judge will decide.

“We don’t have any template to follow for this particular kind of case, and I hope we never have another one.”

While conflicted over Sidhu’s jail term, those gathered agreed that no sentence would ever bring back that which has been lost.

What these families and survivors want more than anything is change.

Celeste Leray-Leicht, mother of deceased Jacob Leicht, spoke to media after the third day of proceedings holding Beaudry’s baby girl in her arms.

Her name is Lilly Brons Beaudry, named in honour of Dayna Brons, the Humboldt Broncos team trainer who died in the crash.

“I would like to give a message of hope and a message of change. I hope all the ministers of transportation across Canada are listening, and I hope you are talking,” she said, as Lilly tugged at the edge of her blanket.

“I hope you commit to Lilly and to everyone in Canada, across the nation, to make changes that make sense in every province and every territory,” said Leray-Leicht.

Lyle Brons, father of Dayna Brons, called for the trucking and charter bus industries to be federally regulated, and Leray-Leicht wanted to see training standards strengthened, anything to ensure no one else has to endure their suffering.

With files from Kevin Maimann

Claire Theobald is an Edmonton-based reporter who covers crime and the courts. Follow her on Twitter: @clairetheobald

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Transit delays, icy roads, bus cancellations — expect a messy morning commute, Toronto

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Expect a soggy commute this morning, as a flood watch posted by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority last night continues into the morning amid new snowfall.

TRCA posted at 10 p.m. on Wednesday that around as much as 20mm of precipitation had fallen throughout the day and gathered in shallow areas of the GTA. As temperatures are not set to drop below freezing until later today, additional snowmelt could mean that standing water levels continue to rise throughout the morning.

Environment Canada says temperatures will drop to a low of -9 C by Thursday evening, and then -18 C with the wind chill overnight.
Environment Canada says temperatures will drop to a low of -9 C by Thursday evening, and then -18 C with the wind chill overnight.  (Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star)

In particular, the TRCA pointed out areas such as the Don Valley Parkway, Bayview Ave., and the GO Richmond Hill Line as low lying roadways that could be places to avoid on this commute.

Shuttle buses are currently operating from Eglinton to Union Station to assist with a service delay southbound at Museum Station

In response to the weather, all school buses in Dufferin County have been cancelled due to icy road conditions. Buses for Durham District School Board and Durham Catholic District School Board have been cancelled in Zone 1, 2 and 3.

Several city bus routes are affected as well and are being forced to detour. The 32 Eglinton West bus is not stopping westbound at Mayfair Rd. due to weather conditions, and 47 Lansdowne is detouring north through Davenport Rd. and Caledonia Park.

Environment Canada says that periods of snow will continue throughout the morning before tapering off, with only a 40 per cent chance of flurries later on in the day. By the evening, Environment Canada says temperatures will drop to a low of -9 C, and then -18 C with the wind chill overnight.

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Good Samaritans help tow Montreal transit bus stuck on slippery slope – Montreal

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A winter storm that slammed into Montreal Sunday made for difficult driving conditions.

And when roads become slippery, no vehicle is immune to the perils of driving — not even city buses.

A video making the rounds on social media shows a Société de transport de Montréal (STM) bus being towed up a slippery street in a somewhat unconventional manner.

READ MORE: Winter storm slams Montreal, hampering travel, causing power outages

Three SUV-type vehicles, each strapped to the other, can be seen towing the bus up Pie-IX Boulevard.

Mathieu Grenon was one of the good Samaritans who stopped to help out, with two of his friends.

“We’re equipped to pull people,” he said, adding that when they saw the bus was stuck, they asked the driver if he needed help.

“He told us to go for it,” Grenon said.

WATCH: Winter storm making travel difficult in Montreal

Passengers on the bus were grateful for the help.

“Everybody was happy and they were cheering,” Grenon said.

He did, however, express worry that the good deed might backfire.

“We’re a bit afraid that we will get a ticket,” he said. “But all we wanted to do was help people.”


READ MORE:
Blowing snow could reduce visibility in Montreal and parts of Quebec

In an email, STM spokesperson Isabelle Tremblay said she had been unaware of the video prior to being contacted by Global News.

She wouldn’t comment on whether the bus driver could face sanctions, only confirming that the weather did make for difficult driving conditions.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Here’s where you can sign the book of condolences for the Ottawa bus crash victims – Ottawa

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After the deadly double-decker bus crash at Westboro station on Jan. 11, the City of Ottawa since Monday has been inviting residents wanting to honour those affected, injured and killed in the collision to sign a book of condolences.

A westbound Route 269 express bus smashed into the overhang of a shelter at the Transitway stop last Friday, claiming the lives of three civil servants and injuring 23 other passengers.


READ MORE:
UPDATE: Ottawa police accept technical support from TSB in Westboro bus crash probe

Ottawa police on Monday identified the three victims as 56-year-old Bruce Thomlinson, 57-year-old Judy Booth, and 65-year-old Anja Van Beek. Many injured passengers remain in hospital and have “a long road ahead of them,” police said in an update on Wednesday.

Residents wanting to sign the book of condolences can do so in Jean Pigott Place at Ottawa City Hall until end-of-day Sunday, Jan. 20.

From there, the book will move to the Eva James Memorial Community Centre on Stonehaven Drive in Kanata. The city is inviting residents of the west-end, suburban community — the area where the bus was headed last Friday — to sign the book at the centre between noon on Monday, Jan. 21, and end-of-day Sunday, Jan. 27.


READ MORE:
Civil servant launches $1M fundraiser to support families of those severely injured, killed in Ottawa bus crash

Residents wanting to pay their respects who are unable to visit either of those two locations can sign an online version of the book of condolences.

The possible causes of the crash remain under investigation by the Ottawa Police Service and its partners, including the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.

WATCH: Ottawa police say many injured bus crash victims have a long road ahead





© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Ottawa bus riders concerned about safety of double-deckers

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As questions are raised about the safety of Ottawa’s double-decker buses, politicians, police and transit authorities are coming to their defence.

Three people died and 23 were injured when a double-decker slammed into a bus shelter at Ottawa’s Westboro station Friday afternoon.

« [I] have second thoughts now, for sure, » said transit user Brian McGregor, when asked if he’d be willing to get back on one of the buses run by OC Transpo, Ottawa’s transit service. 

Others have suggested double-deckers should be pulled from the Transitway, as the city’s bus rapid transit network is known, where the overhanging shelter awnings protrude, until more is understood about what caused the crash.

« Those canopies basically turn the Transitway into a chute lined with can openers, » wrote one commenter on Reddit.

Coun. Allan Hubley, the head of Ottawa’s transit commission, says he’s confident the city’s double-decker buses are safe. 0:46

Chief calls for confidence

Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau was quick to dismiss questions about bus safety during a press conference Saturday.

« People should continue to have confidence in our transportation system, » Bordeleau said. « Ottawa has a very safe transportation system. »

Kanata South Coun. Allan Hubley, the chair of the city’s transit commission, echoed the chief’s confidence in the buses — even though a member of his extended family was injured in the crash.

Hubley said he hadn’t heard from any Kanata residents concerned about double-deckers, and that the cause of the crash still remains unknown.

« We’ll answer that through this investigation. I’m confident that it’s going to come out that the bus is safe. »

Six people were killed in a collision between an OC Transpo double-decker bus and a train in 2013. That crash was on people’s minds after Friday’s deadly collision at Westboro station. (Terry Pedwell/Canadian Press)

Parallels with 2013 crash

Yet on social media, many found comparisons to a fatal 2013 crash involving a double-decker bus and a VIA rail train too hard to resist.

« How people have to die and how many double-decker buses need to crash before you realize this stuff wouldn’t happen with the one-storey buses? » one Twitter user asked the mayor and OC Transpo.

After that crash, the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) recommended public transit buses have more robust safety standards that would help them withstand high-impact collisions.

The TSB found the design of the double-decker involved in the 2013 crash provided riders with little protection.

Sebastien Urban takes an OC Transpo bus along the Transitway from his home in Kanata to his job in Gatineau, Que. He thinks double-deckers should be removed from the Transitway until more is known about the cause of Friday’s crash. (Stu Mills/CBC)

‘Bad situation’

Kanata resident Sebastien Urban lives in Kanata and takes OC Transpo past Westboro station to his public service job in Gatineau.

He said two « close calls » in which double-decker drivers either braked or swerved suddenly keep him from riding in the front of the upper deck.

« It’s just a bad situation when there’s no seatbelts and no proper protection other than one skinny yellow bar there, » he said.

Even if the double-deckers are safe, Urban said they should be taken off the Transitway until Friday’s collision with the protruding shelter is better understood.

At the very least, Urban said the awnings on the shelters should be removed.

« Clearly there’s a vulnerability there, » said Urban. « And it would negligent to not do anything. »

Ottawa Centre NDP MPP Joel Harden says he has confidence in OC Transpo and its fleet of double-deckers. (Stu Mills/CBC)

MPP confident about safety

Ottawa Centre MPP Joel Harden urged the public to remain confident in both the city’s transit service and the people who drive and service the buses.

He recalled taking trips on double-deckers with his children, noting they preferred the upper front seats with their commanding view.

« I’m happy to do it again, » Harden said. « I trust the fact these vehicles are being operated by professionals, and they’re made by high-quality manufacturers. »

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The first 24 hours after Ottawa’s fatal bus crash

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On Friday afternoon, just as rush hour was getting underway, a packed OC Transpo bus slammed into a bus shelter west of downtown Ottawa.

The next 24 hours were chaotic, as emergency crews scrambled to treat the injured and city officials tried to keep residents updated about the developments.

Here’s how it all happened.


Friday

3:50 p.m.:  A double-decker bus carrying dozens of people bound for Kanata collides with the shelter at Westboro station.

4:01 p.m.: Ottawa police announce that they’re responding to the crash and that « several » people have been hurt.

4:13 p.m.: One of the first photos of the crash shared on social media shows significant damage to the bus’s front end. Further photos would come in, showing seats dangling from the top level of the bus and stretchers waiting to ferry away injured people.

4:31 p.m.: More than 40 minutes after the crash, OC Transpo tweets that a collision has occurred and that buses are being detoured.

4:56 p.m.: Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson tweets his shock at the « horrific incident » and urges people to stay away from the crash site.

5:25 p.m.: The Ottawa Hospital says it’s treating two patients in critical condition.

5:48 p.m.: The Ottawa Paramedic Service gives its first public update, saying 17 people are injured.

6 p.m.: The hospital says nine people are now in critical condition at its trauma centre.

6:08 p.m.: The City of Ottawa announces that it’s opened a « family reunification centre » at a nearby seniors’ centre where people can go to get information about their loved ones.

6:15 p.m.: Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau updates media from the scene. He says there are « some fatalities, » but doesn’t give a number.

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

7 p.m.: Watson, Bordeleau, OC Transpo general manager John Manconi and other city officials assemble for a news conference at Ottawa City Hall. Watson says that three people are confirmed dead and that 23 others were injured. Bordeleau says the bus driver has been arrested.

8:01 p.m.: Paramedics announce they’ve finished their work at the scene.

8:25 p.m.: Premier Doug Ford issues a statement that he’s « shocked and saddened » by the crash. He applauds the work of first responders.

11:55 p.m.: CBC learns that the driver of the bus has been released from custody.

A tow truck pulls away a damaged OC Transpo bus from Westboro station on Jan. 12. The double-decker bus struck the shelter the day before. (Idil Mussa/CBC)

Saturday

12 a.m.: The city closes the reunification centre.

7:50 a.m.: Two men come by the scene and put up a tree. One man tearfully tells a CBC reporter they want to affix the names of the victims to its branches.

7:59 a.m.: Ottawa police say they’ve confirmed the identities of the three people who died, but do not release their names. 

11:12 a.m.: The Ottawa Hospital tweets that it only has one person left in critical condition.

1 p.m.:  At a press conference, Sgt. Cameron Graham with the force’s collision investigation unit says officers will be reconstructing the crash to find out what happened. He urges people who were on the bus or saw what happened to come forward, and predicts the crash scene will likely be cleared by Saturday night.

3:27 p.m. Crews begin to tow the bus involved in the crash away from the station.

3:45 p.m. Nearly 24 hours after the fatal collision, police begin driving a similar bus up and down the Transitway near Westboro station in an attempt to figure out what happened.

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In 2013, 6 were killed when an Ottawa double-decker bus hit a train. Distraction was one cause

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A double-decker bus operated by Ottawa’s OC Transpo crashed into a bus shelter Friday, leaving three people dead and 23 hurt.

The incident happened just over five years after another deadly accident involving a double-decker bus, which took place in the Ottawa suburb of Barrhaven.

WATCH: 23 people injured, 3 dead following fatal Ottawa bus crash: mayor






It was 8:46 a.m. on Sept. 18, 2013 when OC Transpo bus number 8017 pulled into the Fallowfield Bus Station on express route 76.

The bus was heading to downtown Ottawa on the Transitway, a private roadway that’s been set aside for commuter buses, said a report by the Transportation Safety Board (TSB).

WATCH: Sept. 24, 2014 — TSB said speed, distraction factors in Ottawa bus crash






Along the Transitway was a left-hand curve that led to Woodroffe Avenue, where the roadways ran parallel and a railway crossed them both.

At the bus’ wheel, the driver would have been faced with all the usual controls and a few additional pieces of technology — like a video monitor screen measuring six inches by four inches.

This monitor showed feeds from four different cameras on the bus: one showed the upper deck, and any OC Transpo driver was supposed to look at it at bus stops and while the vehicle was in service.

READ MORE: TSB — Multiple factors caused fatal Ottawa bus-train accident, including driver distractions

While the bus was stopped at Fallowfield, neither the driver nor his 95 passengers knew that flashing lights, bells and gates had activated along the railway some distance ahead to signal a train was coming.

The bus pulled out of the station 10 seconds after those signals were triggered — and four minutes behind schedule.

As the bus pulled out, one passenger was standing near the top of the double-decker’s stairs and would have been visible on the driver’s monitor screen.

No passenger was supposed to be standing on the top deck — and it was the driver’s job to look at the screen and remind them.

WATCH: Debris lines transitway in Ottawa after fatal bus crash






As the bus approached the left-hand curve on the Transitway, the driver would have heard passengers talking about seating that was available on the deck above them.

The driver looked up toward the monitor at this time.

Along the railway, Via Rail passenger train number 51 was about to cross Woodroffe Avenue and the Transitway en route to Toronto.

Warnings had been activated for more than 30 seconds.

READ MORE: Photos and videos from devastating Ottawa bus crash

Inside the bus, however, no one would have been able to hear the bells — and with the gates and flashing lights hidden by trees, foliage, signage and the bus’ front pillars, the driver wouldn’t have been able to see that a train was coming.

The bus was travelling at 67.6 km/h — 7.6 km/h above the speed limit.

Suddenly, passengers noticed the train and yelled out at the driver to stop and look out.

The driver then hit the brakes smoothly — as he had been trained to do — and that lengthened the bus’ stopping distance.

The bus in which six people died is towed away from the site of the fatal bus and train crash in Ottawa, Thursday, September 19, 2013. Six people died in the crash between a Via Rail train and a city bus on Wednesday.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand .

The bus hit the train after its speed had slowed to 7.7 km/h.

The collision killed the driver and five passengers, hurt nine others seriously and left 25 passengers with minor injuries. No one was hurt on the train.

The double-decker might have avoided the collision had it stopped just 0.4 metres sooner.

TSB investigators blamed the crash on a number of factors, none were driver error.

“Given the circumstances, this accident could have happened to just about any driver,” TSB lead investigator Rob Johnston said in 2015, when the board’s report was released.

Visual distraction was one factor identified in the crash.

Drivers are expected to inspect the video monitor when their buses reach stops, and when they’re in service.

Drivers, the TSB determined, would need to “periodically glance at the screen” while the bus was moving in order to monitor passengers standing on the upper deck.

READ MORE: Bus in deadly Ottawa train crash was ‘over the speed limit,’ says TSB

“Research has determined that a driver’s glances away from the forward visual scene, especially glances lasting two seconds or longer, are significantly associated with accidents and near accidents,” the report said.

Cognitive distraction was another factor.

The driver had spoken with at least one more passenger about sitting on the bus’ upper deck before the vehicle left Fallowfield station, the report said.

And as the bus travelled, the driver would have heard passengers discuss seating.

WATCH: Sept. 24, 2014 — City of Ottawa responds to TSB report on fatal bus/train crash






“This combination of factors, along with the perceived need to make a no-standing-on-upper-deck announcement, created a situation where the driver was likely cognitively distracted in the seconds prior to the accident,” the report said.

The TSB recommended “comprehensive guidelines” for the use of in-vehicle video monitoring displays to lower the risk of driver distraction.

WATCH: Sept. 18, 2014 — Survivor remembers fatal Ottawa bus crash one year later






Distraction wasn’t the only factor in this crash, however.

Also blamed were the driver’s obstructed view, grade separation on the road and the bus’ “crashworthiness” — it was lacking a front bumper and its front end wasn’t designed to protect against the impact of a collision.

The Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, it turned out, had “no requirements for frontal impact, side impact, rollover, or crush protection” for buses in this category.

“Although not required by regulation, a more robust front structure and crash energy management design might have reduced the damage to the bus and prevented the loss of a protective shell for the occupants,” the report said.

  • With files from The Canadian Press

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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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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IN PHOTOS: Ottawa bus crash that killed 3 left a ‘chaotic’ scene – National

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Three people have died and at least 23 have been injured after a double-decker OC Transpo bus crashed into the Westboro transit station in Ottawa, leaving behind a “chaotic” scene.

The incident happened around 3:50 p.m. Friday afternoon during rush hour traffic. The top deck of the bus sustained the most damage, as photos show it severely caved in.

Ottawa paramedics say several people are injured — some critically — after a double-decker bus crashed at the Westboro transit station Friday afternoon.

Christopher Whan / Global News

Ottawa paramedics say several people are injured — some critically — after a double-decker bus crashed at the Westboro transit station Friday afternoon.

Christopher Whan / Global News

WATCH: Emergency crews on scene after Ottawa bus crash at transit station






Several people were trapped in the upper deck for “a period of time,” according to Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau, and the bus’ upper level received the most damage. Most of the serious injuries happened in the upper right side of the bus, which appeared to have crashed into the awning of the station.

“As you can imagine, this is a very chaotic scene,” Bordeleau said.

WATCH: Several people trapped on bus’ upper deck for period of time: police






WATCH: Debris lines transitway in Ottawa after fatal bus crash






Two killed were on the bus and one on the platform. Twenty-five people were taken to hospital from the scene, 14 in critical condition and 11 in serious condition, according to Ottawa paramedics.

The female bus driver was detained and taken to police headquarters, Bordeleau said. “Something” at the scene required officers to arrest the driver.

WATCH: Bus driver detained, set to be interviewed by police after fatal Ottawa crash






There is no word of how many people were on the platform at the time of the crash. There could have been up to 90 passengers on the bus.

Bordeleau, along with Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Jeff Leiper, the Ottawa city councillor who represents the area of the crash, have commended the first responders who arrived at the scene.

WATCH: Ottawa police chief commends first responders following fatal bus






Bordeleau said that six police collision investigators are probing the cause of the crash and are being assisted by the provincial and federal ministries of transportation.

He noted that investigators will be working through the night and into Saturday morning to document the scene. “This will be a long investigation,” he said.

Police and first responders work at the scene where a double-decker city bus struck a transit shelter in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Police and a first responders work at the scene where a double-decker city bus struck a transit shelter in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Police and first responders work at the scene where a double-decker city bus struck a transit shelter in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Police and first responders work at the scene where a double-decker city bus struck a transit shelter in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Police and first responders work at the scene where a double-decker city bus struck a transit shelter in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

-With files from Beatrice Britneff

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Work to replace Hamilton bus shelters begins this month – Hamilton

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The work to replace approximately 500 transit shelters throughout the City of Hamilton begins next week.

On Tuesday, Jan. 15, the first 45 replacements are scheduled to start as part of Hamilton Street Railway’s 2019 Shelter Renewal Program.


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HSR says notices advising customers of the disruptions will be posted in advance at the existing shelter locations as well as on social media.

Temporary stops will also be identified for the duration of each shelter’s removal and installation.


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The transit agency is asking customers to please prepare for inclement weather conditions while the new shelters are being installed.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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