Thursday, September 19 Commentary
Did the brakes malfunction? Did the health of the bus driver malfunction? Did he nod off at the wheel?
Those are just 3 of the myriad of questions in the wake of that nightmare in west-end Ottawa less than 24-hours ago when a double-decker city bus slammed into a moving VIA Rail train, killing 6 people on the bus and injuring more than 30 others on the bus.
11 investigators from the Federal Transportation Safety Board are on scene and they'll pay close attention to the 'event-recorders' on the bus and the train....these are the so-called black boxes that will determined when or if brakes were applied, how fast the bus and train were moving. The data from the VIA train should be available to the investigators today or tomorrow.
It is worth pointing out that National Post reporter John Ivison spoke to another bus driver for OC Transpo who told him that he has, on 3 occasions, refused to drive the same model bus, the Enviro 5-hundred because of the brakes. The driver said the brake callipers stick.
The general manager of Ottawa Transit, refuses to say where there have been an unusual number of complaints about the brakes on these double-decker buses.
Some of the survivors on the bus say the driver hit the brakes twice at the last second but it was too late. Others say he didn't seem to slow down a bit.
An autopsy will try to determine if the driver had a medical problem. Did he have a heart attack? Did he faint? Did he have any alcohol in his system...because friends say he was celebrating his wife's birthday the night before.
He was a veteran bus driver but he'd only been on this particular route for more than a week. The approach to that level crossing on the Transitway is curved. When they were building the Transitway, Ottawa city planners recommended two underpasses on the route at a cost of 40-million dollars. But then engineers found there was unusual rock in the area and it would mean too much water flowing into the construction trenches...in other words, the underpasses could be built but it would cost more...a total of one-hundred-11-million. That was abandoned in favour of 10-million dollars on signals at the two crossings. Was it dangerous there? Officials say there has never been a crash at this rail crossing, either on the road or the Transitway right beside it.
Obviously there is a lot of work to do before we hear answers.
Ottawa is a city in mourning and experts say one of the best ways to help people cope is allowing them to come together, to grieve together. The first of, what will likely be, several prayer vigils was held last night.
NewsTalk 1010's Russ Courtney was there.
If its not one thing its another for Mayor Rob Ford.
After it appeared he successfully rose out the so-called video scandal and Ford was getting his political mojo back, his office is caught up in another controversy.
Specifically his director of operations and logistics, Dave Price...a man the Ford's consider to be "loyal" to them. He was Rob's football coach in high school...a confidant...a mentor.
There's a story in the Star this morning suggesting Price has anger management issues that could lead to police charges against him.
If it wasn't apparent before this week, it is now. The Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives at Queen's Park on a war-footing....as though the election campaign had begun.
Premier Kathleen Wynne and her team have been rolling out announcement after announcement.
Tim Hudak and his people counter with critical press releases and media scrums.
Education Minister Liz Sandals took steps yesterday that many parents can feel good about...but you have to wonder why this wasn't always the case. If the Legislature agrees, any teacher convicted of a sex crime...especially sexual abuse or child porn...they automatically have their teacher's license yanked for a minimum of 5 years. After 5 they could apply for reinstatement but there's no guarantee that they'd get the license back and even if they did, their history would be readily available to school boards where they apply and the board's could decide not to bother hiring them.
Until now, the Ontario College of Teachers has been handling these cases. The Toronto Star looked into some of those cases and found that the College seemed to be protecting teachers accused of inappropriately touching students or having relationships with students outside of class. The College was letting these teachers keep their licenses and the College wasn't publicizing anything about it.
Whether politically inspired or not, this move by the Wynne Liberals is a good one. It's one of those which should get all party support in the Legislature to ensure speedy passage. If it doesn't then we look at who is playing partisan games and putting our kids at risk.