Passenger trains like the ones run by Via Rail are on a Transportation Safety Board watch list because the risk of collision is too high, the TSB says.
A collision Wednesday morning between a Via Rail train and an OC Transpo bus in an Ottawa suburb has drawn five federal investigators to the scene.
Glen Pilon, the lead investigator for the TSB, says a team from the agency's engineering lab and human performance group, as well as rail investigators, are gathering information and trying to get event recorders from the train.
The recorders will tell investigators how fast the train was going and when the brakes were applied.
Pilon says the agency has warned in the past about the danger of passenger trains at level crossings, like the one where Wednesday's crash occurred.
"This type of investigation is going to get a priority from the Transportation Safety Board. It is something we have been watching," he said.
"Specifically crossings involving Via trains at crossings in the [Quebec City-Windsor] corridor is a watch-list concern of ours."
The rail corridor between Quebec City and Windsor is Canada's busiest route, hitting Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. The TSB says there were 71 accidents between passenger trains and vehicles on the route in the past 10 years.
"Because of the chance for loss of life with Via trains, those are one of those things we want to make sure don't happen again," Pilon said, clarifying that he was referring to crossing accidents between "passenger trains and vehicles at crossings."
A news release from the Transportation Safety Board says it has dispatched three investigators to "gather information and assess the occurrence."
Federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt says Transport Canada, a separate agency, has dispatched two officials and will assign a ministerial observer to the accident to support the TSB investigation, an official told CBC News.
The TSB is an independent agency that does investigations to:
- Find the causes and contributing factors of accidents.
- Identify safety deficiencies after incidents.
- Make recommendations to reduce those deficiencies.
Transport Canada investigators look at whether federal regulations were followed.
Raitt said on Twitter that the incident was "terribly tragic."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper called it a "tragic morning in the Nation's Capital." “On behalf of all Canadians, Laureen and I extend our thoughts and prayers to all those affected by this tragedy. I would like to commend all of the first responders who acted quickly to assist those in need.”
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, the MP for the neighbouring riding of Ottawa West-Nepean, called the crash a "horrific accident."
"I am extremely proud of the resiliency of the people of Ottawa and how we face adversity and tragedy together as a community. I have no doubt that today, our city will mourn those we've lost, and support those in need as we move forward as a city, and as a community," Baird said in a statement.
Pierre Poilievre, the MP for Nepean Carleton, the riding in which the crash happened, called it "truly devastating" for the community.
"I offer my deepest condolences to the people whose lives have been affected by this tragedy and the loss of life that has shocked us all. I would also like to wish a speedy recovery to the people injured in this tragic event," he said in a statement.
Another area MP, Liberal David McGuinty, said the community will support those touched by the collision. “I was deeply sorry to hear of this terrible train and bus collision in south-west Ottawa. My deepest sympathies go out to all those who have been impacted by this accident and their loved ones. Your community is here to support you as we grapple with this tragic event.”
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says he was "terribly saddened."
"These next few hours are of vital importance, and it is reassuring to see the swift assistance of our emergency response personnel. We are standing with all those affected by this awful collision."
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