This OPP photo of the site of a school bus double-fatal collision just outside of Brampton Ontario could not be any less informative. The final rest positions of the SUV and school bus had to be located just outside of the right and left edges of this view, as if the person taking the photo purposely wanted not to show those vehicles.

The public was not served well by both investigating police and the official news media with respect to a recent double fatal collision involving a First Student school bus in the outskirts of Brampton Ontario.

The OPP reported that just before 0800 hours on December 19, 2023, a “passenger vehicle” and school bus collided at an undisclosed location. The use of the term “passenger vehicle” could not be any less informative. The OPP reported that there was one student on the school bus who was not injured. There were five persons in the “passenger vehicle” and one of them was pronounced deceased. In a subsequent update the OPP reported that a second occupant of the “passenger vehicle” also died.

The OPP seemed to work hard at providing as little information about the collision as possible. A photo of the collision site was posted on their Twitter account but this seemed to be arranged so that no useful information could be obtained from it. The photo showed two OPP vehicles at the site, with possibly other police vehicles nearby, but nothing was disclosed about the actual collision evidence.

Official news media began to display photos of the area and from this it could be ascertained that the OPP photo seemed to be taken in a manner to hide indications of the final rest positions of the vehicles as well as the damage to them.

A short video was taken of the accident site by CP24 News from Toronto and this was helpful in providing some basics of the evidence. This video provided an aerial view of the site, either from a helicopter or perhaps a drone. The content of this video cannot be shown on our website because it is copyright. The video would have been instructive and educational if someone with collision reconstruction experience was able to point out important elements from it. But news journalists are not experts in collision reconstruction. So the information reported by news journalists from the video was very basic at best. A journalist interviewed an OPP Sergeant at the site and it was clear that minimal information was going to be reported by the Sergeant. Yet the OPP were focused on requesting any information from dashcam footage that the public might have.

Eventually the official news media reported the location of the collision: on Heart Lake Road which is located on the northern outskirts of the City of Brampton. At no point did anyone provide a cross-reference to determine specifically where on Heart Lake Road the site was located. So it took a little digging by Gorski Consulting to find the actual site. However this points to the obvious issue that neither police nor official news personnel are providing the public with basic and essential information that they ought to have with respect to fatal collisions that are victimizing them.

Using the information contained in the CP24 News video our analysis suggests that the collision occurred on Heart Lake Road, about 420 metres south of the Old School Road. This general area is shown in the Google Maps view shown below.

This general view from Google Maps shows that the collision site was located on the outskirts of the City of Brampton.

A closer view of the site is shown below, also taken from Google Maps.

This closer view of the collision site shows Heart Lake Road with Old School Road located just out of view to the top left. The site was located approximately 420 metres south of Old School Road.

Another Google Maps view is shown below. This is a view looking southward along Heart Lake Road from south of Old School Road.

This Google Maps view is looking south along Heart Lake Road in the general vicinity of the collision site.

The news video showed that the SUV had come to rest on the right (west) roadside ditch while the school bus came to rest on the left (east) roadside ditch. Police pilons were positioned on the road indicating that the collision occurred within the paved road and that both vehicles slid to their respective sides of the road. It was apparent that, after impact, both vehicles travelled past the point of impact along similar distances. Nothing was said about the travel directions of the vehicles and so this had to be derived from the evidence.

Some portions of the vehicles were visible in the video, particularly the SUV and damage evidence could be seen along its front end as well as along its left side. The SUV’s windshield contained concentrated areas of fracture particularly at its driver’s side.

Views of the school bus were shown from a distance however it did not exhibit much crush. What damage was visible indicated that it was primarily along the driver’s side of the front end.

The totality of this evidence suggests that the SUV had been travelling southbound and the two vehicles collided in a manner such that there was direct contact damage along the driver’s side of the SUV, and possibly also along the left side of the bus. This is a common happening in head-on collisions. The majority of serious head-on collisions involves an offset where the direct damage is to the driver’s side of the front end. This typically results in counter-clockwise rotation of both vehicles. This rotation was evident in the rest position of the SUV. However the rotation of the bus could not be determined at this time because of the lack of sufficient evidence.

Two occupants of the SUV perished but nothing was said about how and why this occurred. A news reporter announced that, based on his experience, the vehicles had to be travelling very quickly, well above the posted maximum speed of 80 km/h. This is why news reporters should never be trusted to be collision reconstructionists. While the reporter confirmed his understanding that roadways were reported to be slippery in the region the reporter did not seem to think that a vehicle travelling on a downslope on a slippery surface might be factor in the cause of this collision.

By no means was the reporter’s announcement accurate. The available evidence regarding the vehicle speeds would come from examining the speed lost during post-impact trajectories of the vehicles along with a reasonable rate of deceleration. Along with this one must also consider the speed loss from the crush that occurred to both vehicles. A momentum analysis would not work in this co-linear collision and some work would be needed to estimate the change-in-velocity of both vehicles derived from measuring the crush. But even without this basic analysis a collision reconstructionist would be able to tell, just by looking at the basic evidence, that high speeds were not involved in this collision. That is to say, the speeds were within the bounds of what would be expected on a highway signed with a an 80 km/h maximum speed. It is incredible how misinformation can be spread by persons who know very little about collisions and nothing is done to correct that problem.

Modern technology is such that almost all light-duty vehicles are equipped with some form of event data recorder and, in some instances, other forms of evidence capture. Undoubtedly police should have had access to these sources of evidence. Data captured and retrieved from various modules can provide precise information about certain parameters but not all can be known that is needed. Some interpretation of the data is required and, must also be compared to the physical evidence.

This is why a solid grounding in physical evidence must be a component of any reconstructionist’s experience and training. For many years investigators working for federal agencies such as NHTSA and Transport Canada were required to provide vehicle crush data for the narrow purpose of developing estimates of the change-in-velocity (Delta-V) of vehicles in impacts. At no time was it understood that these procedures could be adapted to create further understandings about how collisions occurred. Measuring vehicle crush could go beyond estimating Delta-V and could explore how the shapes of vehicles were changed by the impact. By studying how the shapes of vehicles changed a better understanding could be obtained about what was happening to the vehicles during the time that they were in contact.

With respect to the present collision, if a reconstructionist was familiar with documenting how the shapes of vehicles changed it would be possible to develop a greater understanding of what kind of collision was involved. Evidence about how the vehicles approached each other and how they interacted during the time of contact would allow for a better understanding of what was occurring just before impact. The fact that there appeared to be direct contact along the left side of the SUV would have been an important clue to how the vehicles approached each other just before impact. Without going into too much detail, the presence of direct contact along the left side of the SUV should lead to the question why it existed and why the vehicles did not separate during counter-clockwise rotation before that damage occurred. In our detailed study of many severe head-on collisions the presence or absence of such evidence has been helpful in categorizing and differentiating classes of head-on collisions.

It can be observed that the presence of this direct contact along the left side of a vehicle during a head-on collision is what makes it more dangerous to the occupants of that vehicle, particularly the driver. We have studied this phenomenon for many years without much interest in the reconstruction community. This is often because collision reconstruction has become a police affair with focus on determining vehicle speed and laying charges, rather than focusing on how fatalities can be prevented. As we have mentioned many times before, nothing is learned from these tragedies when those who investigate and report collisions do not understand what they are dealing with.