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Statement from the Chair following the January 2019 OC Transpo accident in Ottawa

Gatineau, Quebec, 14 January 2019 - Our thoughts are with all those involved or affected by the tragic bus accident that occurred at Ottawa's Westboro transit station on Friday, 11 January 2019. We also wish to extend our heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathy to the families and friends of those who lost their lives or were injured.

This accident naturally brings up memories of the OC Transpo-VIA Rail collision at Ottawa's Fallowfield station in 2013 and the TSB's complex investigation (R13T0192) into the causes and contributing factors that led to that tragedy. Over the past few days, the TSB was asked if it will also investigate this recent accident.

The TSB's mandate is to advance transportation safety by conducting independent investigations into occurrences involving the air, marine, rail and pipeline modes, to identify causal and contributing factors, and safety deficiencies, and to make safety recommendations where appropriate. The TSB is not mandated to investigate road accidents and therefore cannot undertake its own investigation into Friday's bus accident. The TSB must respect the existing laws and jurisdictions. The Ottawa Police Service (OPS) is the lead investigation body into the causes of this accident. Given our experience investigating various accidents involving buses and trains, we have reached out to the OPS to offer the assistance of our technical experts. The TSB has also reached out to the Coroner's Office to offer similar assistance. The TSB will stand-by ready to provide any assistance these organizations may require for their ongoing investigations.

It would be inappropriate for the TSB to comment on the police investigation. However, following the TSB's 2013 investigation, a number of recommendations were issued aimed at addressing some important safety deficiencies. Two of these recommendations are particularly relevant to this recent occurrence.

First, the Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS) contain no requirements for frontal impact, side impact, rollover or crush protection for vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) in excess of 11 793 kg (26 000 pounds), which includes most transit buses. As a result, buses in this weight category can have different structural features that may not adequately protect the travelling public. Considering the consequences of the 2013 accident, the Board recommended that the Department of Transport develop and implement crashworthiness standards for commercial passenger buses to reduce the risk of injury (R15-02).

Secondly, the CMVSS contain no requirements for buses (including school, transit and inter-city) to be equipped with an on-board crashworthy event data recorder (EDR), similar to what is available in the air, rail and marine modes. All safety, regulatory, law enforcement and company accident investigations benefit from the efficient, timely and accurate collection, assimilation and analysis of available information. In many cases, EDRs provide and validate much of this valuable information. Early recovery of the information can also result in more timely communication of safety deficiencies and accident reports to industry, regulators and the public, which in turn can result in the implementation of measures to prevent a recurrence. Therefore, the Board recommended that the Department of Transport require commercial passenger buses to be equipped with dedicated, crashworthy, event data recorders (EDRs) (R15-03).

Since these recommendations were issued, Transport Canada has undertaken some work. However, significant progress has not yet occurred and the safety deficiencies remain outstanding. Friday's bus accident in Ottawa, coming on the heels of the 2018 Humboldt bus tragedy, and the earlier 2013 Ottawa bus-train accident, not to mention other examples, reinforces the urgent need for Transport Canada to take action on implementing crashworthiness standards for commercial buses. The TSB therefore calls upon Transport Canada to expedite its work on the development and implementation of such standards.

Building upon the results of its investigation into the 2013 bus-train collision, the TSB will continue to push for changes so that bus passengers in Canada don't have to worry about the safety of the vehicle they are taking to work, home or to a hockey arena.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates air, marine, pipeline, and rail transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

For more information, contact:
Transportation Safety Board of Canada
Media Relations
Telephone: 819-360-4376