Some people were killed and many more injured when an OC Transpo bus slammed into a bus shelter at Westboro station at the start of Friday afternoon rush hour, Ottawa police say.
The single-vehicle collision involving the westbound 269 bus to Kanata happened on the Transitway around 3:50 p.m.
Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau confirmed around 6 p.m. there were “some fatalities,” but did not say how many or whether those killed were on board the bus at the time of the crash.
Before the chief’s remarks, police said at least 17 people were injured in the crash.
The Ottawa Hospital said around 6 p.m it was treating nine patients in critical condition. One person was also taken by ambulance to the Queensway Carleton Hospital, although that patient’s condition has not yet been made public.
‘It was chaos’
Photos of the aftermath show scenes of chaos. One shows first responders aiding an injured person on the pavement in front of the double-decker bus, its front and part of its side shorn off. The front seats of the vehicle’s upper deck hang precariously from the gaping hole.
Bilal Gill was at the back of the top level of the “packed” bus when it started to swerve, then struck the shelter.
“A lot of people started screaming, [including the] people at the front who got pinned under their seats,” Gill said. “It was chaos at first.”
Gill said police showed up quickly and began breaking windows to free trapped riders.
“There was definitely people pinned. And there was a bit of blood on the floor,” Gill said.
Ryan Baldasso, 34, travels the route by bus daily from his home in Kanata. On Friday, his bus passed by the scene shortly after the crash.
It’s horrible. You never want to see anything like that.
– Ryan Baldasso
“It was pretty gut-wreching to see. It’s horrible. You never want to see anything like that. Everyone just wants to get home safe to their families and never think about stuff like this happening. It’s horrible to witness something like that.”
‘Lineup of stretchers’
Emergency crews were cutting seats and windows out of the front of the bus, likely to get at passengers, said Gabe Rivett-Carnac.
“Everyone was certainly moving fairly quickly,” said Rivett-Carnac, who arrived at the station about half an hour after the crash.
“Just judging by the lineup of stretchers … I would say they were certainly acting with some urgency.”
He said he saw at least 30 emergency vehicles at the station.
‘Lots of people injured here’
On Broadcastify, an online service that provides access to emergency dispatch calls, a dispatcher can be heard saying: “I’m getting a double-decker that rammed into the bus terminal. There’s possibly people that are trapped in the bus. Multiple injuries.”
A short time later, a first responder reports from the scene: “Just on the second floor of the double-decker bus. There’s lots of people injured here.”
He later reports: “We’re on the side of the OC Transpo bus with a ladder trying to get people off of the second floor. … I don’t know how many ambulances we have on the way, but we’re going to need quite a few.”
As of 6 p.m., emergency responders were still on the scene, as well as the Ottawa Police Service’s collision investigation unit.
The Transitway is closed in both directions between Westboro station and Tunney’s Pasture station, as is Scott Street near the scene of the crash.
Ottawa Fire Services spokesperson Danielle Cardinal said drivers should avoid the area.
OC Transpo said that buses are being detoured.
People seeking information about family members involved in Friday’s crash can go to the Churchill Seniors Centre at 345 Richmond Rd., the City of Ottawa said.
With files from Denise Fung, Matthew Kupfer, Christine Maki, Joanne Chianello, Tom Parry and Trevor Pritchard