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The victims of the Ottawa bus crash, clockwise from top right: Connor Boyd, Dave Woodard, Michael Bleakney, Rob More, Kyle Nash and Karen Kryzewski.

They include a mother, two fathers, two university students and a young IBM worker – six people, all dead after their double-decker bus slammed into the side of a Via Rail train.

The identities of the victims were made public Thursday, one day after the suburban Ottawa crash sent dozens to hospital. The dead include five men and one woman, ranging in age from 21 to 57.

Among them is the driver, Dave Woodard, 45, whose widow pleaded for compassion, saying her husband was an "amazing" driver and there must have been a mechanical failure.

"Something had to go wrong," Ms. Woodard, 50, told CBC radio. She had been with Mr. Woodard for 25 years, and they have an 18-year-old daughter together. Ms. Woodard said her husband had a good driving record and no health issues. "If he went through the barriers, it's something. Either something is wrong with the brakes, he couldn't stop, the bus was too heavy, I don't know. I don't want to assume, but something had to go wrong. There's no way he went through the barriers for no reason."

The victims also include Connor Boyd and Kyle Nash, both 21-year-old Carleton University students who had graduated three years ago from John McCrae Secondary School in Barrhaven, the Ottawa suburb where the crash occurred. Mr. Boyd's younger sister still attends the school, which is now coping with its second tragedy of the calendar year after a rugby player from the school died from a head injury in May.

"That's still quite a raw wound in the school as well, so right away, you start to worry about how it all gets compounded," principal Tom Schultz said. Mr. Boyd and Mr. Nash were both good students and are believed to have been riding together on the bus at the time of the crash, he said, adding the deaths are felt acutely in the suburban community. "Barrhaven, although it's a lot of people, the tentacles are very interwoven, so everybody knows everybody. … So they know each other, and it affects them," he said.

Mr. Boyd was on his way to university on the morning of the crash and loved school, his family said in a statement. "We are devastated by the loss of our son, Connor," the statement said. "He was so amazing, and we are so proud of who he was. We are comforted to know he knew we loved him and we were proud of him."

Mr. Nash's family also issued a statement through police, thanking everyone for their support and asking for privacy. "He was deeply loved," the statement said.

Carleton University offered counselling to students after the deaths of Mr. Boyd, who was pursing an English degree, and Mr. Nash, who was pursuing a bachelor of information technology. "The loss of such young people, who were in the prime of their lives, will touch us in many ways," university president Roseann O'Reilly Runte said in a message to students, staff and faculty.

Karen Krzyzewski, 53, was also among the victims. The mother of two grown children had worked for 28 years at Library and Archives Canada, which described her as a "dedicated, knowledgeable and experienced employee."

Ms. Krzyzewski's family said in a statement that she loved her work. "She believed that libraries were an important part of Canadian culture and dedicated her working life to this," it said.

Also among the dead is Michael Bleakney, 57, who was a senior geotechnical engineer at Public Works and Government Services Canada. The department said he was a valued employee who brought joy to his colleagues and was recognized as a technical expert in his field.

"Mike was the best husband and father anyone could ask for," his family said in a statement. "His friends and family meant everything to him. He had a distinct and contagious laugh and it was heard often. He will be sorely missed by all those whose lives he touched."

The sixth victim was Rob More, 35. He'd worked at IBM, which issued a statement: "The IBM team in Canada would like to extend their deepest sympathies to Rob's family and all those stricken by this tragedy. Rob was proud to be an IBMer and the company was fortunate to have him as part of our team."

Keenan Wellar remembers meeting Mr. More in 1999. Mr. More had an intellectual disability and became involved with LiveWorkPlay, an organization co-founded by Mr. Wellar.

Mr. More had a biting sense of humour – one revealed only to those he trusted, Mr. Wellar recalled.

"People who knew him will never forget his humour. When Rob finally decided to trust you, it was like a gift – like, 'Wow, I finally got through there,' " Mr. Wellar said. Mr. More had worked at IBM for about 10 years and had moved out of his parents' home to live in a townhouse with his sister, Mr. Wellar said. The family had always pursued as independent a life as possible for Mr. More.

Mr. More lived in Greely and was likely among the first on the bus, Mr. Wellar said, adding he suspects that means Mr. More took a coveted seat near the front. Now grieving the death, Mr. Wellar takes solace in what Mr. More achieved.

"The fact that he was leaving his own place, on a bus, to go to a job, that's the dream," he said. "All we can do is try and support that for other people and to have that quality of life. So far, that's all I can make sense of it."

The double-decker Route 76 Express bus was busy when it left Fallowfield station around 8:50 a.m. Wednesday – there were some passengers standing on the lower floor, though some seats were available on the upper deck. Authorities say another 34 people were injured, including Colleen Thomas, 34.

Speaking Thursday, Ms. Thomas wept as she recalled details of the crash, saying it remains fresh in her mind. "All of it. The impact, the screaming, the noise... we all kind of stood up when the bus stopped, and I remember looking to the left and seeing the bodies all over the train tracks. The front of the bus was completely gone. The seats were gone," she said.

Ms. Thomas was among those with minor injuries, and was examined at the hospital after being thrown into the seat in front of her by the impact. She doesn't blame Mr. Woodard, saying it's not yet clear what happened..

"You know, he's got a wife and kids, and they just lost their dad and their husband. And they don't need that. Even if it was his fault, they shouldn't do that. Whatever happened, it happened and we can't change it," she said. The mother of two took Thursday off work, trying to cope with the aftermath of the crash.

"Luckily, a lot of people walked away from it. But they're going to carry that with them forever. Forever," she said. "They're never going to get that out of their head."

With a report from Gloria Galloway