Westboro bus crash: Defence points to unclear road markings as OC Transpo driver’s trial begins

The trial of the OC Transpo bus driver behind the wheel in the 2019 collision that killed three people and injured dozens more began in Ottawa on Monday. Justin Tang / The Canadian Press

The defence team for the Ottawa bus driver behind the wheel during the deadly Westboro bus crash in 2019 pointed to unclear road markings near the transit station as the criminal trial into the incident began Monday.

OC Transpo bus operator Aissatou Diallo, 44, has pleaded not guilty to three counts of dangerous driving causing death and 35 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm in relation to the bus crash in Ottawa’s west end on Jan. 11, 2019. Three people were killed and dozens more were injured in the incident.

The double-decker bus Diallo was driving at the time collided with a shelter outcropping at Westboro Station, carving into the second-storey of the vehicle as the bus moved into the path of pedestrians waiting at the platform.

Click to play video: 'Bus involved in fatal Ottawa crash removed from scene'
Bus involved in fatal Ottawa crash removed from scene

The proceedings started Monday recapping the events of the day through the eyes of OC Transpo special constables, who were the first emergency responders on the scene that day.

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Carlos Panetta, a special constable at the time, said he was pointed towards a woman resting next to a couple of passengers on a concrete ledge inside the transit shelter shortly after he arrived, and was told she was the driver of the bus.

He said he approached Diallo and asked if she was indeed the driver and if she was hurt, to which he received a nod of yes and a headshake of no.

“She was very quiet,” Panetta said. He later recounted his statement to police shortly after the incident in which he wrote she “appeared to be in shock.”

Panetta said he flagged an Ottawa police officer to escort Diallo from the collision scene.

“Nobody wants to be re-exposed to that type of trauma,” he said.

Read more: Ottawa distress centre getting more calls in wake of deadly bus crash

When Diallo’s defence counsel Solomon Friedman cross-examined another constable on scene, Steven Delaney, he asked questions to establish the conditions of the roadway not only on the day of the crash but in the months leading up to it.

He showed Delaney pictures of construction on the transitway leading westbound into Westboro Station from July and November of 2018, the same direction the bus was travelling before the collision.

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Friedman’s pictures showed that a clear orange line was painted to divert westbound traffic farther to the right and that a gutter had been temporarily paved to give buses and other vehicles space to accommodate construction.

Photos taken from the day of the collision, however, that black paint used to cover up the temporary orange lines had possibly begun to wear off, revealing the coloured lines beneath.

Friedman asserted that the orange lines had become visible, which he said would direct a driver heading west into the station to push farther right. This would drive the bus closer to the previously paved gutter with the station a short distance ahead.

Delaney never fully agreed with Friedman that the revealed lines appeared to be orange but conceded the line was clearly visible. He said he would not have typically followed the line, were he driving his OC Transpo vehicle.

Friedman also showed dashcam photos from the bus in the moments before the collision, which showed the varying sun conditions on the transitway as the bus passed beneath the McCrae Footbridge and between light and shadow.

He argued the sun “explodes” at a driver approaching the transit station and Delaney acknowledged he had experienced similar challenges during his routes patrolling the transitway.

The trial will resume on Tuesday at 10 a.m. and is expected to last eight weeks.

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The City of Ottawa has accepted civil responsibility in compensating victims of the bus crash.

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

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