An Ottawa public servant has launched a GoFundMe campaign aiming to raise $1 million to support the families of those severely injured and killed in last week’s fatal double-decker bus crash, after learning his coworker was among those seriously injured in the collision.
At the start of Friday afternoon’s rush hour, OC Transpo express bus No. 269 smashed into the shelter at the Westboro transit station, located west of downtown Ottawa. The shelter’s overhang sliced through the right side of the upper deck, a violent collision that left three people dead and injured 23 others.
The online fundraiser aiming to collect seven figures is a credible one, Steve Fraser said in an interview with Global News.
“I just want to let people know who I am and know that there is a face and a genuine person behind this that’s going to attempt everything they can to do the right thing with these funds to support the families in this tragedy … and provide the opportunity for the community to come together and support them themselves as well,” Fraser said.
In order to protect his coworker’s privacy at a difficult time, Fraser declined to provide their name and what federal department he works for.
Ottawa police said they believe the bus was near or at full capacity (around 90 people) when it crashed while on its way to Bridlewood, a neighbourhood in Kanata, a suburb of Ottawa.
The Ottawa Police Service is leading the investigation into the possible causes of the deadly collision, saying they are speaking to witnesses, probing data, examining the conditions of the weather and roadway, and reviewing the actions of the driver. An update on the investigation is expected Wednesday afternoon.
Impairment has been ruled out as a possible cause, according to police. Investigators have warned the investigation will be “long and detailed and complex.”
Fraser said, an Ottawa resident, he didn’t know until he returned to work on Monday that his colleague had been seriously injured. While he declined to provide specific details about his coworker’s condition, he did point to reports that some passengers had undergone amputations and said his colleague’s injuries were “very much in nature with that.”
The civil servant said he was also inspired to launch the GoFundMe because of his own family’s experience dealing with a life-altering, medical situation. His father became a quadriplegic when Fraser was 15 years old, he said.
“I’m very much understanding of the financial, physical and emotional needs that are going to be required to support these families,” Fraser said.
“It is life-changing and you feel like the sky is falling and you think that, yeah, you don’t really know what the future holds.”
“All I can say is that even that’s where these families are at right now, you will move forward and there will be good times forward, and you will have, maybe not the life you expected, but you will have a life and you will have the good, bad, same as anybody else,” he said.
Fraser said the money he raises will be divided and disbursed to the families who lost loved ones in the crash and to those who suffered “significant physical injuries.”
He plans to consult a lawyer about how best to manage the fundraiser, identify the recipients of the funds and appropriately disburse the money, he said. He’s unsure at this point how long he’ll keep the fundraiser active online.
His office is also fundraising internally to support their colleague, Fraser said, He described his work team as coping with the difficult news “in a very natural way.”
“I think that everyone just initially has that shock and that disbelief that it’s happened to someone so close to you and I think we all go through that, and then after that, that shock transfers to the needs of that individual,” he said. “So definitely, I know the office will rally around this and the family involved and we will definitely look after our own as well.”
Other GoFundMe campaigns launched to support family of victim, injured passenger
Three separate GoFundMe fundraisers have also been launched in recent days to support the family of Bruce Thomlinson, a 56-year-old employee of the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) who died as a result of Friday’s bus crash.
One of the fundraisers, which appears to be organized by Thomlinson’s colleagues at the CBSA, is trying to raise $25,000. A second campaign, describing Thomlinson as a “devoted father” who was “always smiling,” is aiming to raise another $20,000.
“Funds will help the family deal with emergency expenses and unexpected funeral costs,” the webpage says.
A third campaign seeks to raise $3,000 to help Thomlinson’s family “go through the tragic loss,” organizer Annick Barbieux wrote in a post on her Facebook account. Barbieux described Thomlinson as her “bus buddy for a few years.”
“His happiness and goofy sense of humour will be greatly missed by a lot of people in the community,” Barbieux wrote on the GoFundMe site.
Another GoFundMe campaign for injured passenger Julie Davis has been active since Jan. 12, the day after the double-decker crash. The fundraiser, which is close to raising its revised goal of $35,000, says Davis lost her right leg and possibly suffered nerve damage to her left leg as a result of the collision.
Organizer and close friend Andrea Post wrote that Davis also had a blood clot in her lungs and will have to undergo “many more surgeries.”
“This devastating accident has changed their lives forever,” Post wrote. “They are on a long road to recovery.”
Crash also killed two women
Friday’s crash also claimed the lives of 57-year-old Judy Booth and 65-year-old Anja Van Beek, both federal public servants.
An online obituary for Booth describes her as a “loving wife” and “cherished mother” to her two daughters, and a member of several pipe bands. Booth had retired from the National Capital Commission (NCC) but still worked there part-time on contract. A tweet issued by the NCC on Monday said Booth was known as an access-to-information expert.
“She was an absolute treasure and a beautiful soul that will be profoundly missed by her family and many friends,” Booth’s family said in a statement released through Ottawa police on Monday.
Van Beek worked at the Treasury Board Secretariat of Canada and resided in Kanata with her two daughters.
She was on her way home from work on Friday afternoon when the fatal crash occurred and is survived by relatives in Ottawa, Toronto and the Netherlands, according to a statement from Van Beek’s family released through police.
— With a file from The Canadian Press