Ottawa police say they’ve accepted an offer from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) to provide technical support as they investigate the possible causes of last week’s fatal double-decker bus crash that killed three people and injured 23 others, Police Chief Charles Bordeleau confirmed during an update on the probe on Wednesday.
Bordeleau and Staff Sgt. Peter Jupp of the collision investigation unit discussed the current status of the investigation and said the force has formally requested the help of the independent safety board.
“We believe the skills of the TSB will augment the reconstruction portion of the investigation especially in terms of collision reconstruction, human factors and electronic data gathering,” Bordeleau said.
Police also confirmed on Wednesday that all three people killed on Friday were in fact passengers on the double-decker bus. Initially, Ottawa police said two of the three people who died were on the bus and one was on the platform at the Westboro transit station. Two other passengers were ejected from the bus but survived with serious injuries, the police chief said.
According to Bordeleau, the investigation into the deadly collision is being conducted in two parts. The first part involves determining whether an offence was committed that caused the crash and the second will be a reconstruction of the incident and determining possible contributing factors.
Bordeleau said that the TSB will provide technical expertise in respect to safety matters in the crash but that it will have no role in assigning fault when it comes to civil or criminal liability. Because of its mandate to investigate air, marine, rail and pipeline incidents, the TSB also won’t be able to issue national safety recommendations or a report in this case, but the agency can issue recommendations to the coroner’s office, the police chief said.
The OC Transpo bus, on express route No. 269 from downtown to the suburb of Kanata, wasn’t scheduled to stop at Westboro station on Friday when it slammed into the roof of a shelter, cutting through the right side of its upper deck.
The bus driver, initially arrested at the scene, was questioned by police and later released unconditionally pending further investigation, police have said.
Police have said they believe the bus was at or near its full capacity – about 90 people – at the time of the collision.
Bordeleau on Wednesday could not say whether the three passengers killed were all on the top deck of the bus. Speaking to all the passengers who were on the bus will help investigators determine were everyone was sitting or located when the vehicle crashed, Bordeleau said.
Police have so far identified 80 per cent of those passengers, he said during the update, and urged anyone who was on the bus but who has not yet talked to police to contact them.
It will likely take weeks to identify all the passengers and to interview victims and witnesses to the deadly collision, the police chief said.
When asked why they have not been able to identify some passengers, Bordeleau said it’s a difficult process because OC Transpo doesn’t keep a list of all those riding a bus and the scene was “chaotic.” Passengers were taken to hospital and some may have left the scene on their own, he said.
“This is not a plane, so there’s no manifest that exists,” Bordeleau said.
It has been just five years since another Ottawa double-decker bus broke through a warning gate at a rail crossing and hit a moving Via passenger train, killing six people aboard the bus.
The TSB investigated the 2013 crash, but only because a Via Rail train was involved.
Mayor Jim Watson on Monday said he didn’t think the TSB should investigate Friday’s bus crash because the collision didn’t fall under its jurisdiction and expressed his confidence in the police service’s ability to handle the case.
In an update on Saturday, Bordeleau said the investigation will not yield answers quickly and he cautioned the public not to jump to conclusions about the events leading up to the collision.
He reiterated this during his update on Wednesday.
“We all want answers. But it will take time,” Bordeleau said.
Sgt. Cameron Graham of the collision investigation unit said on Saturday police would conduct multiple drone flights over the scene of the wreckage, as well as gather data from the vehicle itself and any available video surveillance.
Bordeleau said on Wednesday that the damaged double-decker bus is still in the police service’s possession but investigators have had to wait for judicial permission to access the data on board.
While the City of Ottawa and OC Transpo have been fully cooperative, Bordeleau said, police still need permission from a judge to access these files in case future proceedings require the lawful acquisition of the evidence.
With files from Beatrice Britneff and the Canadian Press