A DOUBLE-DECKER BUS crashed into a train at a crossing in a suburban neighbourhood of Canada’s capital earlier today, killing at least six people and leaving scores injured, authorities said.
Thirty people were hurt, with 10 in serious condition, officials told reporters following the morning commute collision.
Five people died at the scene and a sixth in hospital.
“We had bodies and debris pretty much everywhere at the impact site,” fire department spokesman Marc Messier told CTV earlier.
Ottawa police said it was investigating the crash in the suburban neighborhood of Barrhaven, about 17 kilometres south of downtown Ottawa.
Transport officials are also probing the incident.
“All available resources are allocated to the scene,” police said in a statement.
The Via Rail company operating the affected train on the Ottawa-to-Toronto line – on which traffic has been suspended – reported no fatalities. The train was on its way from Montreal.
The OC Transpo bus was headed downtown during the morning rush hour when the accident happened shortly before 8.48 am local time.
At the time, the train was just 30 metres from stopping at a nearby station.
The injured were transported to area hospitals, some of them by helicopter.
The front of the bus was mangled and sheered off while the entire train was derailed by the crash, with the locomotive resting at a 45 degree angle, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.
Witnesses recounted panic aboard the bus just seconds before impact, which caused passengers to be thrown from the vehicle.
Chad Mariage, on his way to work, was seated toward the back of the bus’s second level when the accident happened.
He wasn’t injured, he said, calling himself “one of the lucky ones”.
“The impact was pretty severe,” he told AFP.
People on the bus were screaming just before the accident, he said, adding that the collision “wasn’t a direct hit”.
“We could all see the train coming towards us – almost in slow motion,” he said. “The bus driver hit the brakes but too late.”
It was not immediately clear what caused the crash, which occurred on a cloudless and sunny autumn day.
Emergency workers and police who rushed to the scene cordoned off the area as they helped victims and began their probe.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressed his condolences to the families of those killed.
“Deeply saddened to hear about the bus-train collision in Ottawa this morning,” he tweeted. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those involved.”
Foreign Minister John Baird, a member of parliament for the affected district, praised the resiliency of the people of Ottawa in face of tragedy.
“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,” he said in a statement.
Ottawa flags will be flown at half mast to honor those killed, the city announced in a tweet.
The accident happened just over two months after an oil tanker train derailed and exploded in the Quebec resort town of Lac-Megantic, killing 47 people.
All images: AP Photo/The Canadian Press