At least six people are dead after an OC Transpo bus collided with a Via Rail train in Ottawa’s west end Wednesday morning.
Officials confirmed that five people died on scene and 31 patients were transported to hospital, 11 of whom were in critical condition.
Ottawa police say three of the six victims have been positively identified, but aren’t confirming or releasing the names until the families have been notified.
One of the patients taken to the hospital has died. The bus driver is among the dead.
Officials also said crossings are generally considered safe or “they wouldn’t be there.”
The front of the double-decker bus was ripped apart by the impact. Images from the scene show a broken signal barrier in front of the bus.
The crash happened just east of Fallowfield train station near Woodroffe Ave., in the Ottawa suburb of Barrhaven at 8:48 a.m. EDT.
AUDIO: this condensed audio file contains emergency dispatches as first responders headed to the crash scene and assessed the situation
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The Transportation Safety Board of Canada lead investigator told media they are on the scene collecting information but that at this time the speeds of both the train and bus are not known.
Witnesses said the bus appeared to ignore warning signals at the crossing while passengers on the bus said they screamed at the driver to stop just before the crash.
Pascal Lolgis, who witnessed the crash, said the bus appeared to drive through a lowered crossing barrier.
“Boom! It went into the train like that,” Lolgis said. “He didn’t stop. He must have lost his brakes. Or he had an … attack or whatever.
“He just didn’t stop. He just keep going like that. Then he [got] hit.”
Another witness, Robert Evraire, was waiting at Fallowfield station around 8:45 a.m. when he saw the train coming down the track. Then the front headlights disappeared.
“I seen the impact and the train turn sideways, and black smoke,” he told Global News.
“When I walked up it didn’t look good. The whole front half (of the bus) was basically torn off. Parts of the bus are actually sitting a little bit under the train.”
The train tracks in the area cross both a major city street and a transit line reserved for buses only. The bus was on a dedicated transit line that runs parallel to a busy commuter artery, about 10 kilometres west of Parliament Hill.
As police cordoned off the area, people clustered on the side of the road waiting for their loved ones.
One woman’s 20-year-old daughter was on the bus en route to University of Ottawa. “She’s hysterical,” the woman said, crying.
Families affected by the crash are being asked to go to the Nepean Sportsplex or call 3-1-1 for further info.
More than 100 passengers were on board the train. Via Rail confirmed there were no reports of injuries to passengers or crew members on the train.
Passengers who were scheduled to travel between Ottawa and Toronto on Via will be transported by bus.
Woodroffe Avenue was closed in both directions between Slack Road and Fallowfield Drive.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper shared his condolences and commended first responders for acting quickly.
“It is a tragic morning in the Nation’s Capital, as a devastating accident between a bus and train has caused injury and death,” Harper said in a statement. “On behalf of all Canadians, Laureen and I extend our thoughts and prayers to all those affected by this tragedy.”
– With files from Global News’ Laura Stone and the Canadian Press
© Shaw Media, 2013