A VIA Rail passenger train smashed into a double-decker city bus in Ottawa at 8:48 a.m. on Wednesday, killing six people and sending about a dozen to hospital with critical injuries.
Four bus passengers and the driver died on the scene. A fifth passenger died at the hospital. The crash injured more than 30 people, 10 critically.
Bus operator OC Transpo spokesman John Manconi said the cause of the crash remains unclear.
The bus, route No. 76, was traveling north on Ottawa’s Transitway, and the train was VIA's 51 heading southwest to Toronto from Montreal with 103 passengers. It had just left the Ottawa station when the crash occurred.
The incident took place at the intersection of Woodroffe Avenue and Fallowfield Road, near the Fallowfield train station in a suburban neighborhood northwest of the Canadian capital city's downtown.
Bus passenger Tanner Trepaniere, who was sitting on the upper level, told The Canadian Press that passengers saw the train heading towards them as the bus approached the crossing.
"People started screaming, 'Stop, stop!' because they could see the train coming down the track," he said.
"He was probably going [the speed limit], but the problem is it's as if he didn't see any of the guard rails or anything. He didn't slow down or anything," said Eric Nelson, another bus passenger sitting on the top level, The Globe and Mail reported.
"For the most part in the back of the bus, it was kind of more manageable injuries – but the front, anyone sitting in the front three rows, there's no way they walked out without major injuries there."
Television images showed that the front of the red double-decker bus appeared to have been sliced off by the collision.
"As I looked up the bus was coming into contact with the gate and the front of the bus, it like all impacted at once and everyone flew," said Rebecca Guilbeault, who was on the bus with her young son.
"I've seen a few people dead, someone ripped in half," she said about the aftermath of the crash. "I just feel so bad. Honestly I am just a little shaken up right now."
This has been a bad year for train crashes in Canada. On July 6, a runaway oil train exploded in Lac-Megantic, Que., killing 47 people.
The lead investigator for Canada's National Transportation Safety Board, Glen Pilon, said VIA Rail crossings at streets have previously been a point of concern because the trains carry passengers, not cargo.
Pilon noted that the investigation's priority is now to find the train's black box recording in order to determine what happened in the moments before the collision.
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