OC Transpo driver faces dozens of criminal charges in Westboro bus crash – Ottawa Citizen

OC Transpo driver faces dozens of criminal charges in Westboro bus crash - Ottawa Citizen
Driver in fatal OC Transpo bus crash facing 38 criminal charges
Police in Ottawa have laid criminal charges against the OC Transpo driver after a city double-decker bus crashed into a station overhang in January, killing three people and injuring 35 others. Ottawa Police Service announced Friday that Aissatou Diallo has been charged with three counts of dangerous driving causing death and 35 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.

Interim Chief Bell says this was an extremely complex investigation, with roughly 100 interviews. He says they wanted to do a very detailed investigation and that took time.

The president of the union representing OC Transpo drivers, in January, refused to answer questions about Diallos driving record, her status as a driver, when she was hired, what happens when a driver is involved in any collision (whether minor or serious), or if any additional training is mandated when such incidents occur.

The Ottawa police collision investigators worked relentlessly to asses a mass of information to determine the cause of that tragic event on that day that impacted our entire community, Interim Ottawa police Chief Steve Bell said at a news conference Friday morning. Police said the 42-year-old driver turned herself into police Friday morning and was released on a promise to appear in court next month.  

Firefighters responded to reports of passengers trapped on one of the buses. Paramedics treated multiple people, including a woman with a head injury. Police also responded to the scene. Its not known if Diallo was found to be at fault for the collision, but she was sent for further safety training, according to a source.

The charges stem from the Jan. 11 collision that killed Bruce Thomlinson, 56, Judy Booth, 57 and Anja Van Beek, 65, after the bus slammed into a metal overhang at the citys Westboro station. Bell described the eight-month investigation as being very complex, adding authorities interviewed more than 100 people to ultimately reach the point where we are today that we are laying charges. It takes time. And we knew that it was our responsibility to do an absolutely thorough job, Bell said. What that thoroughness did, was allow us to at this point to be able to release these charges and present the person before court.   The bus was travelling on an express route from the downtown core to the Ottawa suburb of Kanata, where it slammed into the overhang, ripping through the upper level of the bus, crushing several seats and killing the federal government civil servants.

I know that this is likely difficult news for many people to hear, interim Chief Steve Bell told reporters at a press conference. I want to express my deepest condolences to all of those who had their lives changed on that tragic day. You were always top of mind as this investigation progressed.

Following the news conference, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson released a statement, thanking first responders and offering condolences to the families of the victims. Today is a difficult day for the families of those three residents who lost their lives and all those who were injured in this tragic accident; my thoughts remain with them, the mayor said. This has been a traumatic experience for many members of our community, including within our OC Transpo family. My thanks go to all first responders and transportation safety experts who stepped up to help on the night of the incident and over the last eight months. The interim police chief said that the city wasnt criminally liable in the accident and no charges will be laid against the city, deeming the investigation closed.  

Ottawa bus driver facing three dozen charges in deadly January crash

A double-decker city bus that struck a transit shelter at the start of the afternoon rush hour on Friday, remains in place at Westboro Station in Ottawa, on Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Crabtree said the union continues to support Diallo as an operator charged in the course of her work and said that, like anyone else charged, she is innocent of the charges until proven guilty. The union awaits the trial process, he said, and Diallo is paying her own legal fees.

The woman behind the wheel of an OC Transpo double-decker bus that crashed into a shelter west of downtown Ottawa in January is facing numerous dangerous driving charges, Ottawa police confirmed Friday.

On Jan. 11, Diallo was behind the wheel of a westbound double-decker bus on Route 269 heading from downtown to Kanatas Bridlewood neighbourhood. At 3:50 p.m., the bus smashed into an overhang at Westboro Station, which sliced through the upper level of the double-decker.

Aissatou Diallo, 42, turned herself in to police on Friday and was charged with three counts of dangerous driving causing death and 35 charges of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.

The crash at Westboro station on Jan. 11 killed passengers Judy Booth, Bruce Thomlinson and Anja van Beek.

"As part of the criminal investigation, we take all of the information in and we assess it. Based on what the criminal threshold for determining what an injury is, we assessed it against all the people who were on the bus that day and thats how we came up with the three counts of dangerous driving causing death and 35 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm," he said.

Ottawa police announced a week ago their investigation was "substantially completed," and that they were talking to the Crown about what would happen next.

In a news conference Friday morning, interim police Chief Steve Bell said the news is likely "difficult … for many people to hear.

Bruce Thomlinson, 56, Judy Booth, 57 and Anja Van Beek, 65, were all killed when the bus slammed into the overhang at the station. 23 other people were injured, some of them so severely they required amputations.

"I want to express my deepest condolences to all of those who had their lives changed on that tragic day. You were always top of mind as this investigation progressed," he said.

Bell would not get into specifics about what led them to the charges, saying the case is now before the courts. He would only say the actions of the driver met a criminal threshold required to lay charges.

Bell called the investigation "very complex," and said the evidence that led to the charges will soon be presented in court.

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The dangerous driving causing bodily harm charges cover people who suffered physical and psychological injuries, Ottawa police said in an email after the news conference.

Some of the family members of the victims spoke up earlier this summer to complain about the lack of answers about how the crash happened, and radio silence from the city and police. Bell said Friday it was “a very complex” investigation that was made more difficult by the chaotic scene and the frigid weather. It was about -15 C when the bus crashed and the temperatures plunged below -20 C overnight.

The investigation included the coroner's office, provincial and federal transportation officials, provincial police, RCMP and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.

The double-decker transit bus was travelling to Kanata’s suburban Bridlewood neighbourhood from downtown Ottawa when it hopped a curb and struck the Westboro transit shelter at about 3:50 p.m., just as rush hour began. It plowed along a station platform and into the overhanging roof of the transit shelter, crushing several seats _ and passengers _ on the towering vehicle’s upper deck.

Bell said the City of Ottawa and OC Transpo have been cleared of criminal wrongdoing in the crash, and that no other charges are expected.

Immediately after the Jan. 11 crash, police said the 90-passenger bus had been nearly at capacity, and that 23 people were injured. But the scene was chaotic and it took police a lot of time to track down every passenger that had been on board. Eventually police discovered that 35 people had been hurt badly enough to warrant criminal charges under the definition of bodily injury.

In an emailed statement issued shortly after the charges were announced, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson thanked first responders who helped rescue survivors, as well as the experts who took part in the months-long investigation.

Diallo had been working for OC Transpo for less than a year at the time of the collision, and had been involved in another collision between two buses in December 2018.

The municipality has faced multimillion-dollar lawsuits as a result of the crash but Bell said officers determined that the city wasn’t criminally liable in the accident. He said no charges will be laid against anyone else, including the city or OC Transpo, which runs the bus system.

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Two-hundred and twenty-four days after three people died when a double-decker commuter bus slammed into an Ottawa transit station, the woman who was behind the wheel has been charged in their deaths, as well as for injuring 35 others.