We will likely never know what the City of Ottawa did to cause the multi-fatal bus crash of January 11, 2019. By accepting it was liable for the bus crash at its Westboro station Ottawa can be assured that much of the details of its actions will never be released to the public. In a letter dated January 7, 2020 City solicitor David White wrote “This memo is to confirm that the City and its insurers accept civil responsibility arising from the bus collision…”.
This is just a continuation of the actions of police who have also released few details about the crash. The bus driver, Aissatou Diallo, was temporarily arrested for a short time after the collision but no explanation was given for this unusual action except that she was being uncooperative with the investigation. Details of why she was uncooperative have never been given. It is reported that Diallo’s trial on charges of dangerous driving will be heard in March of 2021. That date is over 2 years after the collision.
There was an obvious incompatibility between the unusually tall, double-decker bus and the low, overhanging structure at the Westboro station. Such an obvious incompatibility should have been recognized by those responsible for operating the bus service. Combined with the lack of bus crashworthiness it would seem that substantial guilt must ride with other persons other than the bus driver. Yet no official entity has made mention of these issues. Police seemed to be quick in focusing their investigation on the bus driver while no details have yet been released as to why the driver’s actions were determined to be dangerous.
There is a likely possibility that much of these details may never be revealed, as witnessed by the happenings in the Humboldt Broncos tragedy of April, 2018 in Saskatchewan. The police report in the Humboldt Broncos collision was never publicly released. This seems bazaar given the high publicity given to the collision and the uninformed opinions that continue to be expressed about what caused it, what caused the fatalities and what corrections need to be made in the future. While everyone has an opinion no one wants to demand that the police report be released so that those opinions can be based on hard facts.
LIke the Humboldt Broncos collision, many recommendations have been made from the OS Transpo collisions for future improvements but few have been acted upon. In a CBC article of January 21, 2019 Ryan Tumilty described the numerous delays that occurred as Canada’s Transportation Safety Board (TSB) filed recommendations from their investigations and these recommendations took “decades” to be acted upon. The CBC article indicated:
“As of last fall, there were more than 62 outstanding TSB recommendations that were more than 10 years old and 22 of those are more than two decades old.”
The TSB investigated a bus crash with a train in 2013 involving a similar OC Transpo bus. At that time it recommended improvements to bus crashworthiness. Those recommendations have not been acted upon because Transport Canada indicated it was having difficulty finding a “bus shell” to conduct its crash testing. This explanation continues even after the January 2019 crash. No explanation is available why Transport Canada could not simply buy a fully completed bus if a shell was not available.
Both the 2013 and 2019 crashes exhibited similar indications of poor crashworthiness of the structures of the buses. The area of direct damage showed how the sheet metal of the bus structure simply became torn away and there was little indication of any deformation to the non-contacted structure where the separations occurred. Deformation to the non-contacted area near the separation would indicate that a substantial amount of energy was dissipated before the failure occurred. Lack of such evidence would indicate that the failure occurred without much energy being expended. The photo below shows the bus from the January 2019 crash and the most obvious sign of this weak structure is that the roof of the bus appears essentially undamaged at its front edge where the roof pillar separated and was pushed rearward.
Similarly, the OS Transpo bus from the 2013 railway train collision is shown below. Again, the directly contacted structure has separated from the rest of the bus and the roof appears essentially undamaged.
The Ottawa Citizen newspaper indicated that claims with respect to the Westboro crash have reached $180 million. Whoever caused the City of Ottawa to become exposed to these claims is unlikely to suffer any personal consequences. Police have focused on laying charges against the bus driver but those who are employed by the City of Ottawa, or those who manufactured the bus and any other persons who are protected by large organizations will never experience similar repercussions. The $180 million will simply be paid by the taxpayers of Ottawa.
Ottawa is not the only City exposed to such claims. The City of Hamilton will have to pay large amounts due to the loss, or intentional hiding, or an engineering report that showed that the surface conditions of its Red Hill Valley Parkway were substandard. A $250 million class action lawsuit and other claims have been filed and once again, any employees of the City will likely be protected while the taxpayers will pay the costs. Not only does the City of Hamilton have to deal with that fiasco but only a few months later it was found that City politicians agreed to hide another misdeed with respect to sewage that was leaked into a City watershed – a leak that had been going on for several years. While such misdeeds became public because individuals put there careers on the line to become whistler-blowers, the numbers of incidents in other municipalities where mis-deeds have been successfully hidden will never be known.