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Canada Police release bus driver without charges in Ottawa crash that left three dead

A double-decker city bus that struck a transit shelter at the start of the afternoon rush hour on Friday, remains in place at Westboro Station in Ottawa, on Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019.

Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Police have released the driver of the bus that crashed into a transit station in Ottawa that left three people dead and 23 more injured.

Ottawa police said they have released the driver of the OC Transpo double-decker bus “unconditionally” after arresting her and bringing her in for questioning following the crash Friday.

Investigators worked through the night and identified the three victims and contacted their families, said Const. Amy Gagnon.

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Police say the chief and an investigator will update the public at 1 p.m.

The city bus hopped a curb and struck a transit shelter at about 3:50 p.m. Friday just as rush hour began. It plowed along the platform and into the overhanging roof of the transit shelter, carving deep into the vehicle’s second deck. The first seats on the upper level of the bus were crushed together.

Officials say two of the dead were passengers on the bus, and the third was on the platform at Westboro station, a major stop on the city’s busway.

Gangnon said Ottawa police’s collision investigation unit remains on the scene as it continues its examination of the collision. Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation and Transport Canada are also involved in the investigation.

OC Transpo has issued notices saying detours are in effect for the Dominion and Westboro transit stations. Road closures remain in place near the scene of the collision and police are asking the public to avoid the area.

Paramedics said a total of 25 people were taken to hospital, suggesting one of the victims could not be revived at the scene and the other two died after arriving. Of those transported, 14 were in critical condition and 11 were in serious condition. Most of the serious injuries were incurred by passengers on the upper-right side of the bus.

Ottawa Hospital initially admitted seven patients in critical condition and nine patients in stable condition, across both campuses. The hospital says there is now one patient in critical condition, six patients in serious condition and four patients in stable condition.

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Queensway Carleton Hospital reported receiving one patient by ambulance and a few walk-in patients Friday evening.

During a press conference Friday, 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 hadn not snowed in Ottawa Friday and the busway is the top priority for the city’s snowplows, salters and sanders.

“Our (city) community has been rocked today. I know all those impacted by this tragedy will be surrounded and supported by many,” Bordeleau wrote in a tweet published late Friday evening.

“Please keep victims, witnesses, families and our amazing first responders in your thoughts.”

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

“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,” Trudeau said in a tweet Friday evening.

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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 suburban Barrhaven, killing six people as the train sheared off the front of the vehicle. In that case, an investigation found that the cause was a combination of excessive speed, a difficult curve before the tracks and driver distraction from video monitors showing the upper deck.

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