'No way he wasn't paying attention': family defends OC Transpo bus driver
Published Friday, September 20, 2013 8:14AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, September 20, 2013 10:02PM EDT
The man behind the wheel of an Ottawa city bus that collided with a Via Rail train was a good driver who made safety and his passengers a priority, his family said Friday.
Dave Woodard’s wife and brother told CTV News that the 45-year-old loved his job and was “proud” to be an OC Transpo driver.
Woodard had very mild diabetes, but that couldn’t have been a factor in the crash, his brother said.
“He took care of himself health-wise, food-wise,” Steve Woodard said.
His first thought after the accident was that his brother may have had a stroke or a heart attack while driving, but there is no history of heart disease in their family.
“My first gut instinct is maybe he had a heart attack, maybe next thing was mechanical failure of the bus,” he said. “There’s no way he wasn’t paying attention or doing what he shouldn’t have been doing. Safety was his first priority.”
Woodard’s wife, Terry, repeated her plea to the public not to blame her husband for the crash.
“I just want to say sorry to the families out there. Just keep in mind that Dave always drove for his passengers in the morning and he didn’t do anything else. His passenger was his number one,” she told CTV.
The other victims of Wednesday’s crash are: Michael Bleakney, 57; Connor Boyd, 21; Kyle Nash, 21; Karen Krzyzewski, 53; and Rob More, 35.
More than 30 other people were injured in the collision, which took place just before 9 a.m. in Ottawa's southwest end.
On Friday, the Transportation Safety Board said the gates, lights and bells at the rail crossing where the crash occurred were all in proper working order at the time. They had been activated 47 seconds before impact and the gates were “fully horizontal” 25 seconds prior to the collision, the TSB said.
The probe also revealed that the train's crew applied its emergency brakes two seconds prior to the crash, and that the train was travelling at a speed of 47 mph, which the TSB said was "well below" an allowable speed of 100 mph.
The train did not blow its whistle as it approached the intersection because of a municipal ban on train whistles.
The TSB also said some information has been downloaded from the bus's diagnostic system and a full mechanical analysis will be conducted.
Rob Johnston, a lead investigator for the TSB, expressed Friday condolences for those affected by the crash.
"Going forward we commit to conducting a comprehensive and thorough investigation to try and explain what happened and why. Only by doing that can we hope to prevent this kind of accident from happening again in Canada," he said.
The TSB investigation will next look into whether the sight-lines at the intersection were obstructed and review the requirements for all buses stopping at railway crossings.
Meanwhile, during Friday morning's commute, passengers aboard an Ottawa city bus were silent as they came to a halt at the same railway crossing where the collision occurred.
"It's horrible, thinking about all those people who died on this spot," bus passenger Germaine Easita told The Canadian Press as a train moved past. "I am still wondering how it happened."
Both OC Transpo and Via Rail resumed its service through the area Friday after the region around the crash site was completely reopened.
As the first train slowly pulled into Fallowfield Station just before 8 a.m. on Friday, locomotive 911 was greeted by a crowded platform. Some commuters took pictures of the train, which was bound for Toronto's Union Station.
"There's a lot that have to be done – overpasses would be a wonderful idea. We really need help that way. The train traffic out here is terrible," one commuter at Fallowfield Station told CTV News.
Woodard’s family has asked OC Transpo to retire bus route number 76 in light of the deadly crash.
They said they’ve received a lot of support from friends, the community and OC Transpo. And Steve Woodard said he was relieved to learn from the coroner that his brother did not suffer in death.
“Dave was our rock, my big rock, my prince, my sunshine,” Terry Woodard said. “He was the most wonderful man, father, brother, stepfather. We’ll miss him big time.”
Carleton University remembers 2 young victims
Two of the victims, Nash and Boyd, were Carleton University students. An event was held at the university campus Friday, when students, faculty and staff gathered with members of the victims’ families to share their grief.
Boyd's father told the audience how he remembered the day his son was accepted into Carleton University and how he loved his teachers and his classes. He said he will remember his son's sense of humour.
Carleton University president Roseann O'Reilly was in attendance and called the event an "appropriate remembrance."
"This has been a very sad time for Canada for Ottawa and for Carleton Univserity. Two of our students and one of our alumni were among those that lost their lives in this great tragic accident. We are all extremely sad," O'Reilly told reporters.
Maureen Murdock, Carleton’s director of health and counselling, said that additional counsellors have been brought in to help students deal with their grief.
"They (students) are very sad," Murdock said. "They are sad to lose somebody that meant a lot to them. They are sad to hear about somebody their age dying."
With a report from CTV Ottawa’s John Hua and files from Fan-Yee Suen and Jonathan Zettel