Ottawa police are remaining tight-lipped as they continue to investigate the cause of a bus collision that claimed three lives on Friday.
“This will be a long and detailed and complex investigation,” Sgt. Cameron Graham of the Ottawa police collision investigation unit said at a press conference Saturday.
“We are reviewing all aspects of the collision including the vehicle, the roadway, the weather and the driver’s actions,” he added.
In addition to the three fatalities, 23 were injured after a OC Transpo double-decker bus hopped a curb and struck a transit shelter at about 3:50 p.m. Friday.
Police said first responders worked through the night to investigate and identify the victims, though the process is ongoing and no names have been released.
Just after 7 p.m. on Saturday, police said the collision unit had completed its documentation at the scene and local road closures had been lifted.
The Ottawa Hospital tweeted Saturday morning that it’s currently treating one patient in critical condition, six patients in serious condition and four patients in stable condition in relation to the crash.
The police force said the driver of the bus, who had been detained for questioning, has been “released unconditionally pending further investigation.”
At a press conference on Friday evening, Police Chief Charles Bordeleau said “something” at the scene led police officers to arrest the driver and bring her into police headquarters.
On Saturday, however, he said he wanted to make clear that the public shouldn’t “read into” the fact she was arrested.
Officials said Friday that two of those killed were on the bus while the third was on the platform of Westboro station, a major stop on the city’s Transitway west of downtown Ottawa.
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Bordeleau clarified Saturday that was based on initial information and the location of the victims at the time of the crash is still under investigation.
The westbound bus, which was headed to Bridlewood in the south end of Kanata, appeared to have rammed into the shelter at the station. Images taken at the scene show the front of the double-decker bus ripped off.
Fire crews used ladders to get passengers off the top level of the bus. The police chief said the most serious injuries were inflicted on those sitting on the upper-right side of the bus.
Monica Lung passed the scene of the collision on her daily bus ride home from Carleton University.
“I knew it would be bad just by looking at the number of emergency vehicles, but then when my bus kind of passed and I saw the front, I felt like my heart broke,” she told Global News.
The bus she was on was following the same route, she said, and was just 200 metres behind the one that crashed. She passed the wreckage so soon after it happened that emergency vehicles hadn’t even arrived yet.
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“My first thought was, ‘I don’t know how anyone could survive that,’” she continued. “I think everyone on my bus felt the same, and then the whole way home no one was speaking. It was really shocking.”
Graham said Saturday that investigators are currently collecting video and other evidence and conducting calculations to determine the speed of the vehicle. They will also be flying a drone over the area as part of the reconstruction process.
He said police are still looking to speak to witnesses — the bus had a capacity of 90 people and it’s believed it was full or near full at the time of the crash.
“If you were on the bus and have not spoken to the police and given us your contact information, we request that you contact us,” Graham said.
The tragedy led to an outpouring of grief from Ottawa and beyond.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted his condolences Friday night following the incident, and thanked first responders who came to the aid of the injured.
“I want to send my deepest condolences to the families of victims and everyone affected by today’s tragic bus crash in Ottawa. Thank you to the first responders who rushed to help — we’re monitoring the situation closely,” he said.
His note was accompanied by messages from several public officials, including Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.
The City of Ottawa said a book of condolences will be available at city hall starting on Monday for those wishing to extend sympathies.
OC Transpo said all bus routes servicing Westboro and Dominion stations will be making detours between Lincoln Fields and Tunney’s Pasture stations.
–With files from Beatriceand the Canadian Press.
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