Trial underway for Ottawa bus driver charged in fatal 2019 bus crash
OTTAWA -- The criminal trial for an OC Transpo driver charged in connection with a fatal bus crash at the Westboro bus station two years ago began Monday.
Three people were killed and 23 others were injured when a double-decker bus struck an overhang at the Westboro Station at 3:50 p.m. on Jan. 11, 2019.
Aissatou Diallo, 44, was charged in August 2019 with three counts of dangerous driving causing death, and 35 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.
Diallo pleaded not guilty, and will stand trial by judge alone.
Ottawa police charged Diallo after an eight-month investigation into the crash. At the time, police said no charges would be laid against the city of Ottawa or OC Transpo, and the investigation was closed.
In opening statements Monday, Assistant Crown Attorney Louise Taney detailed the Crown’s positions on what led to the crash.
“Miss Diallo did not lose control of bus 8155. Miss Diallo allowed her bus to drift out of the express lane she was supposed to be in, crossed through the service lane and off the road. Miss Diallo drove the bus off the road, through the snow on the shoulder, into the rock wall along the transit way and right into the Westboro Transit Station,” said Tansey.
“She did not apply the brakes, she did not steer the bus back onto the roadway,” Tansey added. “The evidence deduced at this trial will show that for at least 15 seconds Miss Diallo abdicated her responsibilities as a professional driver.”
Two witnesses took the stand in court Monday, Steven Delaney and Carlos Panetta, both special constables with OC Transpo who responded to the chaotic scene that day.
Cross examination from Diallo’s lawyers focused on roadway conditions and markings on the Transitway from construction the year prior to the crash.
“Look at the roadway,” said defence lawyer Solomon Friedman, referring to pictures from dashcam footage that day.
“Look what happens in the light, do you see that? What happens is that line just gets lit up by the sun,” said Friedman, referring to a line on the road leading to Westboro Station, which had been painted over.
Three people died when the double-decker bus Diallo was driving crashed into a bus shelter at Westboro Station.
The deceased are Anja Van Beek, 65, Bruce Thomlinson, 56, and Judy Booth, 57.
The three victims from the fatal OC Transpo bus crash on January 11, 2019. Bruce Thomlinson (left), Judy Booth (centre), Anja Van Beek (right)
“We’re starting to learn a lot about what happened that day and it’s pretty stressful to watch,” said Karen Benvie, Booth’s daughter. “It’s like watching it all over for the first time again.”
Like many on that bus, Benvie said her mom was on her way home from work that day, on her usual bus route.
“I’m hoping OC Transpo will use this as a really big learning experience,” Benvie said. “I don’t like feeling the way I feel about this and I really don’t want anybody else to ever have to feel this way about it.”
The trial is expected to last eight weeks. It is being held over webinar due to COVID-19 protocols and will resume Tuesday at 10 a.m.