OTTAWA – Six people died due to a collision between an Ottawa city bus and a Via Rail passenger train on Wednesday.
The collision at a level crossing took place at the peak of the morning commute.
Five died at the scene and one died after being taken to hospital.
The OC Transpo bus driver was among the dead. Ottawa police identified the bus driver late Wednesday as David Woodard, 45, of Ottawa. He was one of five people pronounced dead at the scene.
At least 30 people were injured, including eight who were still listed in critical condition late on Wednesday.
A number of people gathered on the tracks near the crash site Wednesday evening for a candlelight vigil.
“We join all members of council in expressing our deepest condolences to all those who were affected by this terrible tragedy,” Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said at a morning news conference.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost loved ones, who have been injured, or who have loved ones who have been injured.”
Passengers on the bus say they screamed at the driver to stop just before the crash, and witnesses on the ground said the bus plowed directly into the side of the passing, four-car train.
Photos posted to Twitter by witnesses at the scene showed the OC Transpo bus with its entire front end sheared off.
The Via locomotive and one passenger car were derailed by the impact, but Via Rail officials said there were no major injuries reported on the train.
The double-decker buses, used mainly on the city’s busiest commuter routes, can seat 82 people.
Witnesses said the bus appeared to have ignored the warning signals at the crossing and continued through.
One witness who walked to the crash site told 1310News reporter Cormac MacSweeney he saw bits of twisted metal underneath the train. He also said it was a disturbing sight to see.
“All of us from Ottawa have heavy hearts today,” Ottawa-Vanier MPP Madeleine Meilleur said in a release.
“On behalf of all Ottawa MPPs, our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this horrific accident and our condolences go out to the families and friends of the deceased.”
Prior to a transit announcement at Queen’s Park, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said: “My heart goes out to all the individuals and families who are affected, and I want to thank our first responders for being on the scene.”
“The province will be in constant contact to assist the city of Ottawa.”
The Ontario legislature held a moment of silence at the start of question period.
“It is a tragic morning in the nation’s capital, as a devastating accident between a bus and train has caused injury and death,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement.
“On behalf of all Canadians, Laureen and I extend our thoughts and prayers to all those affected by this tragedy.”
The Transportation Safety Board dispatched 11 investigators to the scene to start what a senior board official said will be a very complex job that could take months.
The TSB confirmed investigators have retrieved the black boxes from the train and bus.
Jean Laporte, the board’s chief operating officer, said the team will be thorough.
“We are documenting, photographing the wreckage and the accident site,” Laporte said. “We will be assessing the crossing, its design and the sightlines, we’ll be checking the warning systems and the gates at the crossing to ensure they were functioning correctly.”
As of Thursday, Via Rail train service between Toronto and Ottawa was still affected.
— With reports from The Canadian Press