POSTED: 04:41 a.m. HST, Sep 18, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 05:56 a.m. HST, Sep 18, 2013
OTTAWA, Ontario » A double-decker bus collided with a passenger train in Canada's capital today, ripping off the front of the bus and killing six people, police said. Witnesses said the bus went through a closed crossing barrier, and passengers said they screamed "Stop, stop!" at the driver just before impact.
The crash in Ottawa occurred at the peak of morning rush hour. Officials said 30 people were injured, 11 critically.
It was Canada's second major rail accident this year. It comes just months after an oil train derailed and exploded in a Quebec town in July, killing 47 people.
Via Rail said there were no reports of major injuries to train passengers or crew. Its locomotive and one passenger car derailed.
Tanner Trepaniere, who was on the bus, said passengers could see the train bearing down on them as the bus approached the crossing.
"People started screaming, 'Stop, stop!' because they could see the train coming down the track," said Trepaniere, who was sitting in the upper level.
Witnesses said the bus plowed through a lowered crossing barrier and directly into the side of the passing, four-car train.
Passenger Gregory Mech said the bus was approaching a train crossing where there is about a 90-degree bend. Mech said he didn't think the driver noticed that signals were flashing and that the barrier was down.
"The bus actually hit the train dead on," Mech told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. "I could see that there were bodies on the train tracks. It was horrible."
Rebbecca Guilbeault, who was on the bus with her 1-year-old son, said she had put him in a stroller just before the crash and said people piled on top of him.
"I don't know if the bus driver blacked out. He didn't slow down, and it just impacted with the train," Guilbeault said. "I've seen a few people dead, someone ripped in half."
Witness, Mark Cogan said the rail barrier was down.
"The train is going through," Cogan said. "And I was just looking around, just watching things happen. And noticed that in the bus lane, the double-decker bus ... I saw him, and he just kept going.
"I just thought maybe there's a side way around or something, but instantly, he just ... he smoked the train. He went through the guard rail and just hammered the train, and then it was just mayhem."
Via Rail canceled trains on its Ottawa-Toronto route after the accident, which occurred just outside a suburban train station, Fallowfield.
The train tracks in the area cross a major city street and a transit line reserved for buses only.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper posted a message on Twitter saying he was deeply saddened by the accident and his thoughts and prayers were with the families of those involved.
Associated Press writer Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.