Ottawa police charge transit driver with 38 offences in deadly bus crash – The Globe and Mail

Ottawa police charge transit driver with 38 offences in deadly bus crash - The Globe and Mail
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 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.

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.  

The double-decker transit bus was travelling to Kanatas 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.

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

The double-decker bus, on an express route from downtown to the west-end suburb of Kanata, slammed into the roof of a shelter, cutting through the right side of its upper deck and crushing a number of seats.

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.

Bruce Thomlinson, Judy Booth and Anja Van Beek, all civil servants working for the federal government, died in the crash that happened during a frigid Friday rush hour in the national capital.

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 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.

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

Ottawa bus driver to be charged criminally in deadly crash

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

Bruce Thomlinson, Judy Booth and Anja Van Beek, all civil servants working for the federal government, died in the crash that happened during a frigid Friday rush hour in the national capital.

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

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

The Ottawa Police Service's Collision Investigation Unit was the lead in this investigation. Its mandate was to figure out if anyone had committed any criminal offences in the collision, identify the cause of the crash and any contributing factors to the fatalities and the severity of the injuries suffered by those on the bus. 

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.

A: This is a criminal offence punishable by up to 14 years in prison. There are two components. The first is prohibited conduct — operating a motor vehicle in a dangerous manner resulting in death. The second is a required degree of fault — a marked departure from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in all the circumstances, according to a 2012 Supreme Court judgment that defined the characteristics of dangerous driving causing death. “The fault component ensures that criminal punishment is only imposed on those deserving the stigma of a criminal conviction.”

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

A: The Crown will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that all elements of the charge are present — that the accused deviated from the standard of care and the conduct was outside the expected norms of conduct, said University of Ottawa business and law professor Gilles LeVasseur. This could involve a broad range of evidence, including expert witnesses, camera recordings, blood tests of the accused, cellphone conversations with people on the bus and witnesses on the bus or on the platform.

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.

A: It suggests that the Crown is confident that the burden of proof can be met, that there was a marked departure from the standard of care and that the accused knew and understood this, said LeVasseur. This would involve proving that the accused had the required knowledge and training to drive a double-decker bus safely and disregarded it, which resulted in bodily harm and death.

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.

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.

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 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.

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