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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Police on scene of fatal 2-vehicle crash on Highway 103 – Halifax

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A section of Highway 103 in Lunenburg County is closed to traffic following a fatal crash, according to police.

Nova Scotia RCMP say the two-vehicle crash happened just before 7 p.m. between exits 12 and 13.

READ MORE: Truck crashes into Irving station in Lower Sackville, 2 hospitalized

The section of road between the two exits is closed to traffic as police investigate the cause of the crash.

It’s expected to be closed well into the evening. Traffic is being re-routed through Bridgewater at exits 12 and 13.

Police did not say whether there were any other injuries.

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

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Friends, families gather for Day 2 of Humboldt Broncos crash sentencing hearing

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Relatives and loved ones of victims of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash are bracing for a second day at the sentencing hearing in Melfort, Sask., for Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, the semi-trailer driver who pleaded guilty in the 2018 tragedy.

The crash last April left 29 people either dead or injured. Earlier this month, Sidhu pleaded guilty to 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death and 13 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.

Seventy-five victim impact statements were submitted to the provincial court, with 65 scheduled to be read during the sentencing hearing.

On Monday, many friends and families of victims told the court how the crash has affected their lives. 

Some parents talked about how they would not be able to watch their children grow up, while others said they would never be able to forgive Sidhu for his role in the crash.

« I have no forgiveness, » said Robin Lukan, whose son Conner Lukan, 21, was among members of the hockey team who were killed. « I want you to know you have forever destroyed the family I worked to create — I want you to feel the pain you have caused …. I will never forgive this wrong. »

CBC reporter Jason Warick will be tweeting live from the sentencing hearing. On mobile? Click here.

According to an agreed statement of facts, Sidhu was found solely responsible for the crash.

A forensic collision report found Sidhu’s semi-trailer didn’t brake at the intersection of Highway 335 and 35 before the crash, despite the fact there were numerous signs with flashing lights to warn drivers.

Mark Dahlgren, the father of a young man injured in the Humboldt bus crash, talks about what it means for the families to have a chance to speak in court about the children they lost. 1:24

The report said Sidhu’s view of the intersection was not impeded by any environmental factors like trees near the road or sun in his eyes.

The Crown prosecutor would not comment on what sentence he is seeking for Sidhu.

The maximum sentence for dangerous driving causing death is 14 years in prison. A law professor at the University of Saskatchewan said dangerous driving causing death has typically resulted in jail terms of between two and five years.

The sentencing hearing is scheduled to run until Friday.

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‘I don’t know how I did it’: Mom saves daughter, 4, from sinking car after crash

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As her car skidded across black ice and began rolling down an embankment toward an icy pond, Ashley Holland thought she was going to die.

But moments later, the Hantsport, N.S., woman found the strength to not only save herself, but also her four-year-old daughter who was strapped in the backseat as freezing water rushed in. 

« When something like that happens, it’s like your parental instincts just kick in, right? And you do what you need to do to get your child to safety, » Holland, 24, told CBC Radio’s Mainstreet on Monday, a day after the terrifying ordeal.

The mother of two managed to haul her daughter free from the sinking car and swim to a nearby embankment. 

‘A miracle’

« How they were even able to get out of that car was a miracle, » said Capt. Ryan Richard of the Brooklyn volunteer fire department, who arrived at the scene shortly after the pair made it out of the water. 

« To be able to swim to shore and get up over that embankment is totally unheard of, » he told CBC Radio’s Maritime Noon

« I’ll be honest with you, in my last 26 years I’ve been to many similar incidents and unfortunately they’re usually very fatal. »

Holland had been taking her daughter to a birthday party around noon Sunday when she struck black ice just a few minutes away from her home.

Ashley Holland and her daughter Macy were in the car when it crashed. Holland’s youngest child, 14-month-old Nyla, was at home at the time. (Submitted by Ashley Holland)

She lost control of the vehicle and it ended up rolling down an embankment.

« Terrifying, completely terrifying. My daughter just started screaming and I was just thinking in my head, ‘The water, please just don’t go in the water, like please,' » said Holland.

« Then we hit the water. »

As the car rolled, her daughter Macy kept screaming, « Mom, I’m going to die! » The car initially landed on its roof and both passenger side windows smashed to pieces on impact. 

Water started gushing in, filling up the Toyota Corolla. 

Struggling to open door

Holland unbuckled herself, falling onto the roof of the car, and crawled out a window into the water. She tried to open her daughter’s door from the outside.

« I finally did get it open, but I had slush and ice all over my hands and everywhere and my hand slipped and the door slammed shut. So I’m freaking out trying to think, what do I do? » 

For the briefest moment, Holland thought she wouldn’t be able to save Macy. The car was sinking too fast. Her numb hands and legs were working too slowly.

This photo was taken soon after Holland and her daughter escaped the car. (Submitted by Ryan Richard)

But she didn’t give up.

Holland climbed over the car and went back in through a window and worked with her daughter to free her from the car seat. Macy undid the top straps while Holland unbuckled the bottom ones. 

« I just grabbed her and pulled her out and I tried to keep her above the water. I didn’t want her to be hypothermic. So from the waist down she was soaked, but I mean her hair didn’t even get wet and I don’t know how I did it. »

She managed to carry Macy to shore and push her up onto the embankment, but Holland’s body had reached its limit.

« It was really icy and slushy and I was having a really hard time because I thought I was going to pass out. I was freezing so I was having a hard time getting up the hill, and I just said to her, ‘Run, you need to run, go,’ because I saw there was a car coming our way and I didn’t want them to miss us. »

It took some time to haul Holland’s car out of the pond. (Submitted by Ryan Richard)

As Macy flagged down the passing car for help, Holland managed to haul herself to the top of the embankment. The woman in the car wrapped Macy and her mother in a jacket and called 911 while the pair warmed up in the vehicle. 

At about the same time, a fire truck from Brooklyn drove by on its way to assist another fire department. Richard spotted something sticking out of the pond and had the truck turn around. 

They gave Holland and her daughter warm clothes and blankets while they waited for the paramedics. Richard said Holland and her daughter were hypothermic, in shock and disoriented. 

As a precaution, two firefighters put on diving suits and went into the water to make sure no one else was on board, but the car was empty.

Holland said she was lucky she didn’t take her 14-month-old with her or things could have been much worse. 

« You see stories like this on the news all the time, you know through winter and even in the summer, and it’s like a lot of them don’t make it, » she said. « So I’m just thankful that, you know, we did. »   

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2 seriously injured after single-vehicle crash in Leaside – Toronto

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Toronto police say two people have serious injuries after a single-vehicle crash in Leaside early Saturday morning.

Police said they received a call around 5:30 a.m. for reports that a car had crashed in the area of Laird and Millwood drives.


READ MORE:
Police say street racing may be a factor in fatal Scarborough crash

When authorities arrived on the scene, they located a vehicle that had crashed under a bridge.

The vehicle, a black SUV, was seriously damaged.

The driver of the vehicle was taken to a trauma centre in life-threatening condition, and a passenger was taken to hospital with serious injuries.


READ MORE:
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There is no word on what caused the crash, but police are looking into whether speed or alcohol were factors.

The Toronto police reconstruction team is on the scene investigating.

© 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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Edson’s hockey community bands together to support Mounties’ son killed in crash – Edmonton

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A deadly crash in central Alberta last week that killed the six-year-old son of two RCMP officers has the hockey community in Edson pulling together support for the parents.

Cooper Dwight Pennoyer died on Friday afternoon after police said a truck he was travelling in hit the back of a snowplow that was stopped on the side of Highway 16, about 30 kilometres east of Edson. The person driving the truck was taken to hospital with minor injuries. The driver of the snowplow was not hurt.

READ MORE: 6-year-old boy dies in collision west of Edmonton, RCMP investigating

The Edson Aeros Junior A Hockey Club is now planning a pre-game tribute for Cooper ahead of their hockey game against the Cold Lake Wings this Friday night.

“We are planning a tribute to Cooper as he was a huge Aeros fan and also a player in the Edson minor hockey system,” the team’s president, Axel Axmann, said in an email to Global News. “We understand that Cooper’s mom, who is also an RCMP member, will be in attendance.”

“She was very supportive of it,” Axmann said of Sarah Pennoyer’s response to the tribute plans.

Axmann said the pre-game ceremony will include a moment of silence. Edson minor hockey players are encouraged to attend the game free of charge if they wear their Edson minor hockey team jerseys.

“As we learned from the tragedy in Humboldt, the hockey family is a small family and it’s a very tight-knit group,” Axmann said. “Cooper was a member of the Edson Minor Hockey Association here… We thought one of the best ways to honour him was to have a game in his memory… and show support to his family.

“Lots of tears, lots of grieving will happen and it’s OK, because it’s something that we need to do in order to deal with the process.”

Cooper’s obituary highlights his love for school, especially gym class, and “having new ‘harder’ things to learn.” It also says he played hockey with the Edson Sabres and was also a passionate fan of the sport, cheering for the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks. Axmann said the Aeros’ assistant coach told him Cooper also enjoyed cheering on their team at games.

“Although young in years and old in soul, Cooper’s zest for life shone everyday through his infectious smile and big brown eyes that lit up when he talked about everything he loved,” his obituary reads. “When Cooper smiled it was with his whole face and you couldn’t help but smile with him.

“He shared his passion of hockey, Lego and everything outdoors with his dad, spending countless hours talking, constructing, discussing cows and quadding.”

Cooper’s obituary also mentions he had expressed a desire to follow in the footsteps of his parents, Sarah and Jason Pennoyer, and to eventually pursue a career in law enforcement.

“He was so proud when he put on his mom’s RCMP hat or his dad’s RCMP Stetson and got to play with their vests,” the obituary reads. “The detachment ladies had their ‘coop’ entertainment almost every morning and afternoon while he was waiting to go to school or home, target practice with elastics — taping them to their chairs and drawing them pictures on whatever scrap paper they had on their desks.”

In lieu of flowers, Cooper’s family has set up a trust fund for his sister Taylor to which people can donate. Axmann said he hopes people attending Friday’s game will donate to the trust fund.

“A portion of the funds will be donated in his name to Ecole Westhaven School and the Edson Minor Hockey Association.”

There will also be a celebration of Cooper’s life in Edson on Thursday.

“The RCMP members are a big part of our community and they’re very much involved with us and they do great things for us,” Axmann said. “To have this happen is tragic and it’s sad and we all feel for them and the family.

“It’s a small community and they’re such a big part of it.”

The RCMP said the cause of Friday’s crash remains under investigation.

Edson is located about 200 kilometres west of Edmonton.

–With files from Global News’ Albert Delitala

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

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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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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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