Transitway, Westboro Station reopen as investigation continues into Friday bus crash

transitway
File photo of the Transitway. Zhu via Flickr Creative Commons.

As police and transportation experts continue to investigate what caused Friday’s deadly Transitway collision, city officials say the busy transportation corridor has reopened ahead of Monday morning’s commute.

Three people were killed and 23 hurt when a double-decker city bus hopped a curb and collided with the shelter at Westboro Station, taking a chunk out of the vehicle's second level and crushing several seats.

The Ottawa Hospital said Sunday that those who were critically injured in the incident have started to get better, with patients previously listed in critical condition being upgraded to serious condition.

Meanwhile, the city announced that the scene of the crash, the Transitway, would reopen on Sunday evening, more than 48 hours after the collision.

It asked that mourners hoping to leave a memento or memorial item do so at two designated areas: the westbound transitway platform on the lower level and the northwest corner of Scott and Athlone.

But in spite of the developments, officials say the investigation is far from over.

Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau has said the bus was carrying as many as 90 passengers, who investigators will need to question.

Police officers are collaborating with Ontario's Ministry of Transportation and Transport Canada to probe the incident.

”It's a slow, painstaking process,” Bordeleau said at a news conference on Saturday. “Our goal is to ensure that we get it right.”

The bus was at or near its full capacity at the time of the collision, around 3:50 p.m. on Friday afternoon.

The badly damaged vehicle remained in place for much of the day Saturday as investigators combed for clues. This meant ongoing road closures and detours in the surrounding area. The bus was finally towed away from the Westboro station late Saturday afternoon, about 24 hours after the collision.

The bus driver, initially arrested hours after the crash, has since been released unconditionally pending further investigation.

"It's important that the public does not read into the fact that she was arrested," Bordeleau said. "The reasons why we arrested her are part of the investigation, we're not going to get into that, but our investigative unit is out there collecting all the evidence and then we'll see where it takes us."

The police chief also backed away from previous reports that two of the those killed were passengers on the bus, while the third was killed on the platform of Westboro Station. Bordeleau said new information has surfaced to challenge that account, but did not provide further details.

Ontario's Ministry of Transportation and Transport Canada remain involved in the investigation, he added.

Shortly after the crash, neither Bordeleau nor Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson would speculate on why the bus had left the road. Despite mid-afternoon temperatures of about minus-15, it had not snowed in Ottawa Friday and the busway is treated as a top priority for the city's snowplows, salters and sanders.

Politicians, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford, issued public messages of condolence and support.

Watson publicly thanked the many politicians at various levels of government for their calls of support "as our city continues to cope with the tragic events of the past 24 hours."

This is the second deadly collision involving a double-decker bus in Ottawa in the last six years.

In 2013, another Ottawa double-decker bus broke through a warning gate and collided with a Via Rail train in Barrhaven, killing six people as the train sheared off the front of the vehicle. The investigation into that case concluded that a combination of excessive speed, a difficult curve before the tracks and driver distraction were all factors in the collision.

– With files from OBJ staff