Crews clear scene of deadly Ottawa bus-train crash
Andrea Janus and Fan-Yee Suen, CTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, September 19, 2013 7:20AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, September 19, 2013 10:29PM EDT
More than 36 hours after a deadly crash at a level rail crossing in Ottawa, crews have removed the badly damaged city bus and the Via Rail train from the scene.
The last of the train’s passenger cars were moved from the tracks late Thursday night. Earlier in the day, a truck mounted on train wheels slowly pulled one of the passenger cars past a makeshift memorial that was growing at the site all day.
The accident took place shortly before 9 a.m. Wednesday after an OC Transpo bus collided with a Via Rail passenger train at a level rail crossing in southwest Ottawa. Six people were killed and more than 30 injured in the crash.
One person remains at The Ottawa Hospital after undergoing an eight-hour operation, while three others remain at Carleton Queensway Hospital after having surgery. Most of these victims suffered broken bones and other injuries.
On Thursday, Ottawa Police confirmed the identities of all six of the deceased victims: Michael Bleakney, 57; Connor Boyd, 21; Kyle Nash, 21; Karen Krzyzewski, 53; and Rob More, 35. Dave Woodard, the 45-year-old driver of the bus, was also killed in the crash.
Transportation Safety Board investigators continue to work to piece together what happened in the moments before the collision. The TSB is leading the investigation with the help of Ottawa police and the coroner's office.
Rob Johnston, a lead investigator for the TSB, said earlier Thursday that structural engineers are on site to inspect the damage from the crash. He told reporters that the probe is still in its early stages but said investigators know the double-decker bus hit the train.
In addition to checking the warning systems and the gate at the railway crossing to make sure they were working correctly at the time of the accident, investigators will also be reviewing data from event recorders on the train and bus.
Johnston said the locomotive’s recorder has already been sent to Montreal, where its information will be analyzed. While some trains have front-facing cameras, the one involved in Wednesday’s accident did not, he said.
Other possible sources of information collected from the bus include a global positioning system, which could tell investigators how fast the vehicle was travelling at the time of the crash.
Johnston said the agency may need help deciphering all of the information from the recorder on the bus.
"It's not like on a locomotive, where a locomotive event recorder captures specific data and we know exactly what to look for,” Johnston told reporters, saying that recorders on automobiles can capture various types of information.
The full TSB investigation could take months to complete, said chief operating officer Jean Laporte.
Local officials said there have been no accidents at the intersection where the crash occurred since 2002 -- the year the city started keeping traffic records for that area.
Asked about safety concerns about the level crossing where the collision occurred, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said the city is gathering information to provide to the TSB.
Watson added, however, that all of the city’s rail crossings have been certified.
Transport Minister Lisa Raitt told Power Play Thursday said the federal government will work with industry stakeholders to ensure any improvements to rail safety that are necessary are made, including introducing legislation when the House resumes sitting next month.
However, she added that “there is nothing preventing municipalities” from fixing any immediate safety concerns they have with rail crossings in their areas.
“I wish I could say that there’s no risk associated with any type of transportation and the reality is we know there is,” Raitt said. “But what our job is in government, in industry, in our municipalities is to minimize that risk as much as we can. And that’s really what my focus is on.”
Brock Carlton, CEO of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, said he would like to see a national standard for rail safety, including what “safety instruments or regulations” are required for all level crossings. He also said the guidelines should dictate under what circumstances a grade separation – an overpass or an underpass – is necessary, and who will pay for its construction.
Meanwhile, Via Rail CEO Mark Laliberte held a minute of silence for the victims of the crash at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Montreal.
"I think it's really important…it's a very tragic accident," he told reporters.
Laliberte -- who was in Ottawa on Wednesday to attend a meeting -- rushed to the site of the crash after learning what happened.
He said the crossing signals and the gate were working "normally" prior to the collision.
Via Rail will be providing support for its employees who were on board the train.
The rail company said late Thursday that normal service between Ottawa and Toronto will resume on Friday, and advised passengers to expect “minor delays.”
Details are posted on the Via website.
With reports from CTV’s Richard Madan, Omar Sachedina, Daniele Hamamdjian, Katie Simpson and The Canadian Press