Passenger recounts 'chaotic' scene after OC Transpo bus hit open manhole

A passenger who was injured when the OC Transpo bus she was riding struck an open manhole in Gatineau, Que., on Monday says she has yet to hear from officials about what happened.

Nine people were taken to hospital after the bus ran over the open manhole on rue Laurier near rue Eddy around 4 p.m. Monday, Gatineau police confirmed Tuesday.

Mona Lockett was on her way home to Ashton, Ont., from her job in Gatineau. She said she was sitting near the middle of the "packed" articulated bus, Route 61 Terry Fox, that had just left Place du Portage and was turning right from boulevard Maissoneuve onto rue Laurier.

'We went flying up to the ceiling. I fell down to the floor hard.' - Mona Lockett, passenger

She said the bus was picking up speed when one of its wheels fell into the manhole, sending passengers reeling.

"We went flying up to the ceiling. I fell down to the floor hard ... then a gentleman fell hard on top of me," Lockett said.

"I just thought, oh my God, thank God I'm still alive, and all I could think about was, oh no, I have to pick up my daughter.'"

That's when Lockett said she began feeling pain in her arm, and thought it might be broken.

"It was the most excruciating pain I've ever felt," she said.

Police investigating

The nine passengers, between the ages of 20 and 60, suffered minor injuries and were taken to the Hull Hospital as a precaution, the Coopérative des Paramédics de l'Outaouais told CBC.

It's not known how many other passengers were on the bus at the time.

The driver wasn't among those transported to hospital, said Clint Crabtree, president of ATU Local 279, the union representing OC Transpo bus drivers. 

Laurie Stewart was sitting in the middle section of the articulated bus — across from Lockett — and was taken to hospital and treated for a broken hip.

She told CBC News the sound of the bus hitting the open manhole was so loud that she thought they'd been hit by a transport truck or another bus.

Supplied by Mona Lockett

"Like it literally felt like a bang, and when the bus lifted up and smashed down again ... the magnitude seemed so much more than just a manhole cover," Stewart said. 

Gatineau police spokesperson Andrée East said the manhole cover was found nearby. Police are investigating how and why the cover was removed, she said.

Supplied by Laurie Stewart

Chaotic scene

Lockett described a "chaotic" scene, with passengers scrambling to help those injured until firefighters and paramedics arrived.

She said she was taken to the Hull Hospital but left several hours later without having seen a doctor. She finally saw a doctor at the Carleton Place & District Memorial Hospital on Tuesday.

Lockett said her injuries include a bruised right hip and soft tissue damage to her left leg and arm.

She hopes to hear from OC Transpo about what happened, but has yet to hear anything from any city official.

The City of Ottawa was unable to provide a response about the incident to CBC by Tuesday evening.

Supplied by Laurie Stewart