Trial video captures moments before fatal Westboro bus crash

·4 min read
The OC Transpo double-decker bus involved in the Westboro bus crash as seen the day after the collision, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press - image credit)
The OC Transpo double-decker bus involved in the Westboro bus crash as seen the day after the collision, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press - image credit)

The driver of the OC Transpo double-decker bus that slammed into the Westboro station overhang appeared to exclaim "Oh my God" just moments before impact, according to video evidence presented at her trial Tuesday.

Aissatou Diallo, 44, has pleaded not guilty to three charges of dangerous driving causing death and 35 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.

The Crown presented the video during testimony from two bus passengers, Brittney Worrall and Brian Thiessen, who were both riding in the lower level of the bus during their afternoon commute home on Jan. 11, 2019.

Court saw video from the front-door camera, the middle-door camera and the camera located at the top of the double-decker's stairs and aimed at the bottom.

The front-door camera showed what appeared to be two bumps. Passengers began to turn toward the front of the bus, while some who were standing looked like they braced for impact — and then the camera cut to black.

That video, the only one with sound, also included a moment prior to impact where a voice court heard was Diallo said, "Oh my God."

Defence lawyer Fady Mansour accompanied Diallo outside of the courtroom after the video was shown. Her other lawyer, Solomon Friedman, asked that court take a break to allow her to recover.

Aissatou Diallo, 44, has pleaded not guilty to all 38 dangerous driving charges against her related to the Westboro bus crash.
Aissatou Diallo, 44, has pleaded not guilty to all 38 dangerous driving charges against her related to the Westboro bus crash.(Raphael Tremblay/CBC)

2 bumps prior to crash: passenger

Worrall, who worked at Health Canada at the time, boarded the bus at Tunney's Pasture, one stop before the crash.

She was standing at the bottom of the double-decker's stairs, holding a yellow support bar with each hand. She described herself Tuesday as a regular albeit "nervous" rider.

Video taken from the top of the double-decker's stairs showed Worrall at the bottom of the staircase at the moment of impact, along with — at the edge of the frame — what appeared to be a rush of debris where passengers had been seated.

Worrall testified she'd been listening to music that day and wasn't looking at the road. She felt a small bump, a larger bump and then the crash.

She said she also felt some "swerving," but not a "hard adjustment."

When she tried to exit the bus after the collision, Worrall said she alerted the driver that she'd heard crying and screaming in the upper deck and that people might have been injured.

The driver was dazed, Worrall said, and was trying to direct passengers out through the damaged front door.

Defence focuses on sound

The defence focused on a different aspect of the front-door video: the sound it captured before the bus drifted toward the curb and the bus shelter.

Questions about the sound came up during the cross-examination of Thiessen, who had been seated in the priority area just behind the front door and had said the windshield disintegrated into little pellets.

Friedman suggested there was a screeching or whining sound, and that Thiessen had never heard a sound like that in all the years he'd ridden OC Transpo.

Thiessen said he could hear the sound on the video but didn't have any independent recollection.

"I don't recall hearing anything like that," he said.

Aissatou Diallo's defence lawyers submitted this screen shot taken from the windshield camera video of the OC Transpo double-decker seconds prior to the collision. The Crown says the position of the camera doesn't reflect what the bus operator sees.
Aissatou Diallo's defence lawyers submitted this screen shot taken from the windshield camera video of the OC Transpo double-decker seconds prior to the collision. The Crown says the position of the camera doesn't reflect what the bus operator sees.(Exhibit/Ontario Court of Justice)

Friedman also noted that in Thiessen's statement to police, he had said it was difficult reading his book after the bus left Tunney's Station toward Westboro due to the low angle of the sun.

Friedman suggested it was the change from shadow to extreme bright sun, as the bus passed underneath bridges and overpasses, that accounted for some of that difficulty.

The judge-alone trial before Justice Matthew Webber is in the Ontario Court of Justice began Monday and resumes Wednesday morning. It's expected to last eight weeks.