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3 dead in bus crash at Ottawa transit station

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Three people were killed and nearly two dozen injured when an OC Transpo bus slammed into a bus shelter at Westboro station at the start of Friday afternoon rush hour.

The single-vehicle collision involving the westbound 269 bus to Kanata happened on the Transitway around 3:50 p.m. 

During a news conference Friday evening, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said two passengers and one person waiting on the platform died in the incident, and 23 were injured.

The Ottawa Hospital said around 6 p.m it was treating nine patients in critical condition. One person was also taken by ambulance to the Queensway Carleton Hospital, although that patient’s condition has not yet been made public.

Flags at city hall have been lowered to half-mast, Watson said.

‘It was chaos’

Photos of the aftermath show scenes of chaos. One shows first responders aiding an injured person on the pavement in front of the double-decker bus, its front and part of its side shorn off. The front seats of the vehicle’s upper deck hang precariously from the gaping hole.

Bilal Gill was at the back of the top level of the “packed” bus when it started to swerve, then struck the shelter.

“A lot of people started screaming, [including the] people at the front who got pinned under their seats,” Gill said. “It was chaos at first.”

Gill said police showed up quickly and began breaking windows to free trapped riders.

“There was definitely people pinned. And there was a bit of blood on the floor,” Gill said.

Ottawa Police chief Charles Bordeleau told Friday night’s news conference that the most serious injuries occurred on the top right side of the bus, matching images from the scene.

Bordeleau said the bus driver had been arrested and would be interviewed by police. 

The crash investigation will continue throughout the night and into Saturday morning, he said.

‘Gut-wrenching’ scene

Ryan Baldasso, 34, travels the route by bus daily from his home in Kanata. On Friday, his bus passed by the scene shortly after the crash.

It’s horrible. You never want to see anything like that.– Ryan Baldasso

“It was pretty gut-wreching to see. It’s horrible. You never want to see anything like that. Everyone just wants to get home safe to their families and never think about stuff like this happening. It’s horrible to witness something like that.”

Emergency crews were called to Westboro station in Ottawa following a collision involving a double-decker OC Transpo bus. (@gabesimages/Twitter)

Several people have been injured in a collision involving an OC Transpo bus at Westboro station, police say. (@SaveOurSenators/Twitter)

‘Lineup of stretchers’

Emergency crews were cutting seats and windows out of the front of the bus, likely to get at passengers, said Gabe Rivett-Carnac.

“Everyone was certainly moving fairly quickly,” said Rivett-Carnac, who arrived at the station about half an hour after the crash.

“Just judging by the lineup of stretchers … I would say they were certainly acting with some urgency.”

He said he saw at least 30 emergency vehicles at the station.

‘Lots of people injured here’

On Broadcastify, an online service that provides access to emergency dispatch calls, a dispatcher can be heard saying: “I’m getting a double-decker that rammed into the bus terminal. There’s possibly people that are trapped in the bus. Multiple injuries.”

A short time later, a first responder reports from the scene: “Just on the second floor of the double-decker bus. There’s lots of people injured here.”

He later reports: “We’re on the side of the OC Transpo bus with a ladder trying to get people off of the second floor. … I don’t know how many ambulances we have on the way, but we’re going to need quite a few.”

As of 6 p.m., emergency responders were still on the scene, as well as the Ottawa Police Service’s collision investigation unit.

Transitway closed

As of 7:20 p.m., the Transitway was still closed in both directions between Westboro station and Tunney’s Pasture station, as was Scott Street near the scene of the crash.

Drivers are being urged to avoid the area, and OC Transpo buses were still being detoured.

People seeking information about family members involved in Friday’s crash can go to the Churchill Seniors Centre at 345 Richmond Rd., the City of Ottawa said.

With files from Denise Fung, Matthew Kupfer, Christine Maki, Joanne Chianello, Tom Parry and Trevor Pritchard

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‘Too soon to celebrate’ Ottawa’s low case count, says Etches

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Ottawa Public Health (OPH) logged just 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the lowest daily total since Sept. 1.

Because of the lag between testing and reporting, the low number could simply reflect low turnout at the city’s testing sites on weekends — all month, new case counts have been lower on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 

During a virtual news conference Tuesday, the city’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches said she doesn’t read too much into a single day’s report.

“I don’t think we can make too much of 11. Actually, it could be a lot higher tomorrow — I would expect that, on average,” she said. “It’s too soon to celebrate.”

Provincewide, public health officials reported 1, 249 new cases Tuesday.

OPH also declared 62 cases resolved Tuesday, lowering the number of known active cases in the city to 462. Two more people have died, both in care homes currently experiencing outbreaks, raising the city’s COVID-19 death toll to 361. 

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Santa Claus isn’t coming to Ottawa’s major malls this year

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Santa Claus may still be coming to town this Christmas, but he won’t be dropping by any of Ottawa’s major malls, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, Cadillac Fairview said Santa won’t be making an appearance at any of its 19 malls across Canada, including Rideau Centre in downtown Ottawa. On Tuesday, Bayshore and St. Laurent shopping centres confirmed they, too, are scrapping the annual tradition.

“Due to the evolution of the situation in regards to COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our Santa Program and Gift Wrap Program this year,” Bayshore spokesperson Sara Macdonald wrote in an email to CBC.

Macdonald said parent company Ivanhoé Cambridge cancelled all holiday activities “due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the country.”

Macdonald said families that had already booked an appointment to visit Santa will receive an email with more information.  

Virtual visits with Santa

Rideau Centre said based on customer research and discussions with public health officials, its North Pole is going online this year.

“Children will be able to have a private chat with Santa,” said Craig Flannagan, vice-president of marketing for Cadillac Fairview. “You’ll also be able to join a 15-minute storytime with Santa over Facebook Live.” 

At Place d’Orléans Shopping Centre, visitors are invited to take a “selfie with Santa” — actually, a life-size cutout of Santa Pierre, the man who’s been playing Santa at the east end mall for years.

“We understand that this is not ideal, but in lieu of this tradition we will be doing what we can to maintain and encourage holiday cheer,” according to a statement on the mall’s Facebook page.

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Ottawa Bylaw breaks up two large parties in Ottawa over the weekend

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OTTAWA — Ottawa Bylaw is investigating social gatherings of more than 10 people in private homes across Ottawa last weekend.

Mayor Jim Watson tells Newstalk 580 CFRA that Ottawa Bylaw broke-up two house parties over the weekend, with 20 to 25 people at each party.

“That’s the kind of stupidity that angers me, that’s where the bulk of the transmissions are taking place, if we exclude the tragedy of the long-term care homes; it’s these house parties with unrelated people,” said Watson on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa at Work with Leslie Roberts.

“The message doesn’t seem to be getting through, particularly to some young people who think they’re invincible.”

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Bylaw and Regulatory Services Director Roger Chapman says, “There are still ongoing investigations from this past weekend that could result in charges.”

Chapman says recent investigations led to two charges being issued for social gatherings of more than 10 people in a private residence in contravention of the Reopening Ontario Act.

“In one case, up to 30 individuals were observed attending a house party in Ward 18 on Oct. 24,” said Chapman.

“The second charge was issued following a house party in Ward 16 on Oct. 31, where up to 16 individuals were observed to be in attendance.”

The fine is $880 for hosting an illegal gathering.

Alta Vista is Ward 18, while Ward 16 is River Ward.

Ottawa Bylaw has issued 24 charges for illegal gatherings since the start of the pandemic.

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