Sequence of events of the crossing collision between VIA Rail Canada Inc. passenger train and OC Transpo double-decker bus (R13T0192)

Collision at a level railway crossing

Video transcript

On the morning of September 18, 2013, OC Transpo double-decker Bus No. 8017, operating as Express Route 76, arrived at the Fallowfield Bus Station in South Ottawa. The bus was en route toward downtown Ottawa along the Transitway, a private 2-lane roadway dedicated to commuter bus traffic. From the bus station, the Transitway extends east to a left-hand curve which turns sharply north and runs parallel to Woodroffe Avenue. The bus was in good mechanical condition. The driver was fit for duty and familiar with the route.

Inside the bus, the driver's workstation included standard controls and several in-vehicle displays, one of which was a video monitor mounted above and to the left of the driver's seat

The video monitor screen measured about 6 inches by 4 inches and was further divided into 4 smaller quadrants, each displaying a view from 1 of 4 on-board video cameras. The bottom right quadrant displayed the upper deck.

OC Transpo required drivers to monitor this screen at station stops and while in service, and announce that no standing was permitted on the upper deck if passengers were seen standing, although there was no sign prohibiting this.

At Fallowfield Station, passengers entered and exited the bus. The driver looked at the video screen and announced that there were empty seats on the upper deck. A passenger on the upper deck did not see any available seats and remained standing near the top of the stairs, visible on the driver's video screen.

Just prior to departing Fallowfield Station, the driver was engaged with at least one passenger in conversation regarding seating availability on the upper deck.

The bus departed about 4 minutes behind the scheduled departure time with about 95 passengers on board. At this time, the flashing lights and gate at the railway crossing were already activated. However, the driver's view was obstructed by trees, shrubs and foliage.

As the bus proceeded along the Transitway, the driver would have overheard nearby passengers involved in conversations regarding the availability of seating on the upper deck.

While negotiating the left-hand curve—a task that requires more attention than driving on a straight road—the driver was also likely distracted by the nearby conversations and by the perceived need to make an announcement that no standing was permitted on the upper deck. During this time, the driver looked up toward the video screen.

With the bus accelerating toward the crossing, passengers began to shout, and the driver refocused attention on the road ahead and applied the brakes.

As a result of the collision, VIA train 51 derailed. The bus was extensively damaged. The driver and 5 bus passengers sustained fatal injuries, 9 were seriously injured, and about 25 incurred minor injuries.