Double-decker buses still considered safe after notable crashes

WATCH ABOVE: The crash happened on the westbound 401 near Lancaster, Ont. between a tractor-trailer and a double decker Megabus. 

Four people were seriously hurt and 19 others were injured when a double-decker bus collided with a tractor-trailer in eastern Ontario.

Max Kelly was one of about 45 people on the bus at the time of the crash and said the scene following the crash was “horrific.”  He said a woman at the front of the bus was pinned and screaming for help.

“She was screaming,” he said. “Total panic and chaos.”

Sean Hughes, the director of corporate affairs for North America, said in an email to The Canadian Press that safety is the company’s “No. 1 priority” and that “Megabus is fully co-operating with the authorities with their investigation into the incident.”

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Hughes did not respond to requests from Global News for comment.

The scene of an accident is shown where dozens were injured, several seriously, when a tractor trailer and double-decker bus en-route from Montreal to Kingston collided on Highway 401 near Cornwall, Ont., on Tuesday, June 23, 2015. Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

The use of double-decker buses as a mode of public transportation has become increasingly popular in recent years. GO Transit has 22 double-decker buses, and 94 lower double-decker buses.  Ottawa’s public transit authority, OC Transpo, has 75 double-decker buses in its fleet.  And Megabus, a coach bus service operating in Canada and the United States uses mostly double-decker buses and operates throughout Ontario.

Raynald Marchand, the general manager of the Canadian Safety Council in Ottawa, said double-decker buses are safe vehicles.

“Certainly the double-decker bus and buses in general would be safer than car driving,” he said during an interview Wednesday, explaining that the bigger the vehicle, the more protection it offers to passengers.

Instead, he suggested that part of the reason double-decker buses seem to be involved in more and more accidents is merely because they’re used more often.

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The Ministry of Transportation is assisting the Ontario Provincial Police in investigating Tuesday’s crash. The province also keeps a Commercial Vehicle Operator Registry (CVOR) which keeps track of safety records for each commercial operator. According to a statement from the Ministry of Transportation, Megabus remains a safe operator.

“The ministry does not currently have any safety concerns with this carrier and a Satisfactory Safety Rating has been assigned indicating the carrier has passed a facility audit and has shown their performance and practices are satisfactory with respect to its safe operation of commercial motor vehicles.”

Transport Canada keeps statistics on the number of people injured in various types of vehicles on Canadian roads each year. And the number of people injured on an intercity or coach bus barely changed between 2000 and 2011 – the last year for which data is readily available. In 2000, 1,041 people were injured on buses in Canada. That number grew to 1,185 in 2011.

Double-decker buses have been involved in notable accidents in the past.

Six people were killed when an OC Transpo double-decker was hit by Via Rail train in Ottawa in 2013.  A Transportation Safety Board investigation released in September 2014 noted the bus in that accident was travelling at 67.6 kilometres an hour, just over the posted 60-kilometre limit when its brakes were first applied two seconds before impact.

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One person was killed and dozens were injured when a Megabus double-decker crashed into a bridge in Illinois in August 2012.

Also in August 2012, a Megabus double-decker caught fire while on a Georgia highway.

Four people were killed in 2010 when a Toronto-bound double-decker Megabus struck a bridge near Syracuse, New York.

With files from John R. Kennedy and The Canadian Press

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