Health & Medical

Westboro bus shelters, scene of tragic 2019 bus crash, demolished

Westboro bus shelters, scene of tragic 2019 bus crash, demolished thumbnail

“I’m just happy to see it gone. It marks the spot where we lost the people who died.”

Demolition work at Westboro Station on Friday.
Demolition work at Westboro Station on Friday. Photo by ERROL MCGIHON /Postmedia

The bus shelters came down Friday at Westboro Station, the scene of an OC Transpo bus crash that took the lives of three people and left dozens with scars both visible and invisible.

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It was there on Jan. 11, 2019, that rookie OC Transpo driver Aissatou Diallo lost control of a westbound Route 269 bus, which slammed into the platform and crashed into a snowbank, a rock-faced wall, another snowbank and the station’s steel canopy.

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Anja Van Beek, 65, Judy Booth, 57, and Bruce Thomlinson, 56, were killed. Diallo was acquitted of three counts of dangerous driving causing death and 35 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm in September 2021.

In the wake of the crash, there were calls to remove the awning at the station. Now the shelters are being demolished as the Transitway is being converted to accommodate the LRT system. For some, the news marked the end of a painful chapter.

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Demolition work continued at Westboro Station on Friday.
Demolition work continued at Westboro Station on Friday. Photo by ERROL MCGIHON /Postmedia

“I’m just happy to see it gone. It marks the spot where we lost the people who died,” said Karin Hohban, who still wears a brace and walks with the aid of two canes as a result of injuries from the crash. “I feel a strong connection because I was pretty much in the middle of them.”

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Hobhan feels fortunate she was not more seriously injured, but she has not been able to go near the site of the crash or even use public transit.

Marcie Stevens, who lost both legs above the knees because of injuries from the crash, said she felt happy about the demolition. “It tells me that people in the city care about how the victims of this crash feel.”

For others, the continued presence of the bus shelters from 2019 were a reminder of the trauma still haunting them.

Jessica Service, who received a concussion, suffers from PTSD. She said she was glad the shelters were finally coming down, but it was also a reminder of her anger and frustration that they were not taken down sooner. The demolition is a point on a construction schedule, she said, and not a sign that the city acknowledged the pain of crash victims or recognized the dangers of the overhang.

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“The city has finally caught up to where it should have been before the accident,” Service said. “I don’t see it as a success. For me, this will not reinstate trust in the way the city runs public transit.”

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Service started taking exposure therapy about four months after the crash in an attempt to get accustomed to a regular commute. The therapy made it necessary to take a bus past Westboro Station, an anxiety-provoking experience. But she has not used public transit since the LRT launched in September 2019 because she was anxious about the crush of people on the train.

A file photo shows first responders in action after the OC Transpo bus crash at Westboro Station on Jan. 11, 2019.
A file photo shows first responders in action after the OC Transpo bus crash at Westboro Station on Jan. 11, 2019. Photo by Wayne Cuddington /Postmedia

Nonetheless, Service considers herself lucky. “What happened to me was not anything compared to what others suffered. I’m not complaining. It would do a disservice to all of those around me.”

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In September 2021, the city announced changes to Westboro Station to make the platform safer and to prevent similar collisions, made following the recommendation of a road safety audit carried out after the crash by Parsons Corporation with an analysis of those findings by Intus Road Safety Engineering.

The measures include changing no-parking areas into no-stopping areas, reviewing the traffic signs at and near Westboro Station, removing loose rock from rock wall faces east of the station and installing highly visible black and yellow striping near the platform edge.

The Transitway between Tunney’s Pasture and Dominion Station was closed permanently at the end of June to allow construction of LRT extensions to Algonquin and Moodie Stations. Construction of the O-Train West Extension requires demolition of some parts of the existing Westboro Station, said Michael Morgan, the city’s director of the rail construction program.

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Construction of the new Westboro Station is expected to begin in December.

Coun. Jeff Leiper and representatives of both the Westboro Community Association and OC Transpo met at Westboro Station before the start of the demolition work and together respectfully removed the memorial items that had been placed after the collision, Morgan said.

After the new Westboro Station is completed, OC Transpo says it’s ready to work with community partners and city council on the possibility for a future memorial.

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