Trial of OC Transpo driver charged in fatal Ottawa bus crash set for 2021

Three people were killed and another 23 were injured after a double-decker OC Transpo bus crashed at the Westboro transit station in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. Christopher Whan / Global News

The OC Transpo bus driver charged earlier this year in connection with the fatal double-decker bus crash at the Westboro transit station on Jan. 11, 2019 will go on trial for eight weeks beginning on March 22, 2021.

Aissatou Diallo did not appear in court on Tuesday. Her lawyer, Fady Mansour, appeared on her behalf to set the trial dates.

Click to play video: 'Bus driver charged in Ottawa crash that killed 3'
Bus driver charged in Ottawa crash that killed 3

Diallo, 42, faces three counts of dangerous driving causing death and 35 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm in connection with the January afternoon crash, which claimed the lives of 65-year-old Anja Van Beek, 57-year-old Judy Booth and 56-year-old Bruce Thomlinson, all federal public servants.

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Ottawa police said back then that 23 others were seriously injured when the bus on Express Route 269 to the city’s west end barrelled into the overhang of a shelter at the transitway station west of downtown Ottawa.

Two people were thrown from the bus, and many of the survivors sustained injuries to their lower limbs and required amputations.

READ MORE: Bus driver charged in Ottawa crash that killed 3

Police charged Diallo on August 23, 2019 after a months-long investigation into the crash by the police force’s collision investigation unit.

With the exception of a few days, Diallo will be on trial between March 22 and May 14, 2021, inclusive.

READ MORE: 3 dead, 23 injured in bus crash at Ottawa transit station — city officials

The justice of the peace heard on Tuesday that Diallo was offered earlier trial dates in mid-August 2020, but her current defence counsel wasn’t available until March 2021.

Mansour declined to comment about Diallo’s case outside the courtroom.

Bus crash victim’s brother reacts to trial’s timing

Outside the Ottawa courthouse on Tuesday, Anja Van Beek’s brother, Andrew Van Beek, said the 2021 start date “is not a great answer” from his perspective, but he understands why the trial has been scheduled at that time.

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“There’s really nothing you can do about it,” he said. “It’s not great, but I can only complain about it to myself.”

Click to play video: 'Brother of Westboro bus crash victim recalls evening of January 11'
Brother of Westboro bus crash victim recalls evening of January 11

More than 10 months after the fatal crash that killed his sister, Van Beek said he’s “feeling OK” and is able to get on with his work and daily life, but he also wrestles with wanting “to get things wrapped up.”

“Knowing when [the trial] is, is probably enough for now and [we] can put that on the back burner until we have time to think about it again in 2021,” he said.
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Van Beek said he won’t attend the trial in its entirety but wants to be there for “parts of it.”

Andrew Van Beek is the brother of Anja Van Beek, who was killed in the double-decker bus crash at Westboro transit station in Ottawa on Jan. 11, 2019. He was at the Ottawa court house on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019 to hear confirmation of the trial dates for the OC Transpo bus driver charged in connection with the deadly collision. Beatrice Britneff / Global News

Police did not criminally charge OC Transpo or the City of Ottawa after concluding their investigation into the deadly collision. A number of multimillion-dollar civil lawsuits, however, have been filed against the city in the months since.

Van Beek said he was “extremely surprised” that police placed all criminal wrongdoing on Diallo. He said he thought there would have been “at least … more of an investigation into the circumstances that led to her being in the seat.”

“That’s still a concern and a question that everybody I speak to has,” he said. “I don’t know anyone who focuses all of their attention on the driver alone.”

READ MORE: Mourning relatives of Westboro bus crash victims feel ‘stuck’ with no update on probe or timeline

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Asked whether it would help to put a face to the driver’s name or say anything to her if she appeared in court, Van Beek said there’s nothing he could ask and no answer she could give that would change anything.

“It’s a set of circumstances that’s unbelievably unfortunate that cascaded into something bigger than anyone could have imagined,” he said.

— With a file from the Canadian Press

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