Six Dead, Dozens Injured in Ottawa Bus-Train Collision

Train accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report that six people have died after a double-decker bus collided with a passenger train near Ottawa, Canada. About 34 people are injured and ten of them remain in critical condition.

The crash occurred about six miles south of downtown Ottawa, just after 8:45 a.m. on Thursday, September 18, 2013. Preliminary reports suggest that the bus driver was unaware of the train track’s signal lights and gates. Passengers on the bus noticed the driver was not slowing for the train and screamed at him to stop, however, their efforts came too late.

The passenger train, a VIA Tail, was traveling southwest heading to Toronto.
Fortunately, none of the 100 train passengers were injured. The bus, on the other hand, seats 82 people, though authorities are not yet positive how many people were on board. The double-decked is owned and operated by OC Transpo.

Photos from the crash aftermath show the front of the bus almost completely sheared off with a mass of twisted metal revealed underneath. VIA Rail contracts the servicing company RailTerm to maintain its railway crossings. When employees from RailTerm arrived at the crash site they said the crossing gates were ripped from their place and lying on the ground, suggesting the gates were down and the bus collided with them.

In related news, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently launched a two-week inspection strike force of passenger bus safety. Inspectors will visit passenger bus companies and drivers throughout the country in efforts to remove dangerous or illegal drivers and vehicles from the roadways. The inspection force is part of the FMCSA’s Motorcoach Safety Action Plan, which was launched in 2009.

The Action Plan targets several safety provisions, specifically focusing on driver fatigue and behavior, crash avoidance measures, vehicle maintenance, occupant protection, and operator oversight. Officials will surprise companies with their inspections to assess the actual, every-day levels of safety and overall bus maintenance, including braking and exhaust systems and tires.

The U.S. Transportation Secretary stated that, during the two-week crackdown, investigators will remove dangerous vehicles and drivers from duty and ensure that all bus companies are adhering to safety standards. Inspectors will verify driver qualifications and compliance with hours-of-service requirements. Efforts target 250 of the nation’s highest-risk carriers.

A similar strike force in April 2013 resulted in 18 companies ordered out of service due to safety violations and deficiencies. Additionally, the operating authority of 10 companies was revoked, and the FMCSA created a mobile app, SaferBus, which enables passengers to review a bus company’s safety record. The app is available on iPhone, iPad or Android phones, and is free to download.

Over the past several years motorcoach inspections have increased 15%, to over 33,500 in 2012. That year about 880 drivers and over 1,800 vehicles were put out of service. A recent article by USA TODAY stated that the actual number of fatal bus accidents is much higher than the government reports. The reporter found that some of the most devastating motorcoach accidents, such as the crash in 2003 in Louisiana that killed eight people, are not included in federal statistics.

The reporter highlighted the tragic crash that killed Lorenzo Charles, a North Carolina State University basketball star. He died in 2011 after the motorcoach bus he was driving spun out of control. His accident prompted much publicity into bus safety as well as congressional hearings. Some are now concerned, however, that federal underreporting gives Congress a false impression of how safe buses actually are, giving he industry leverage and political cover during such hearings.

In its reporting USA TODAY found that at least 32 motorcoach fatalities were not reported between 2003 and 2009. It is worth noting that the agency does not consider deaths on midsize buses as “motorcoach fatalities,” though there were 42 deaths from 2000 to 2009 on midsize buses.

Bus crash lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm will continue to report on accidents and federal initiatives to improve bus travel safety. If you or a loved one was seriously injured in a bus accident, you may be entitled to significant compensation for your medical bills and lost wages, and should contact a skilled attorney as soon as possible for a free legal consultation.

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