Six dead after Via Rail train and Ottawa city bus collide

Train Bus 20130918Six people are confirmed dead following a horrific early-morning crash between a Via Rail train and a double-decker city bus in Ottawa?s west end.

The bus driver and four passengers died on site and one more person died in hospital, city officials said at a news conference later on Wednesday.

The accident took place at about 8:50 a.m., during morning rush hour, near Woodroffe Ave. and Fallowfield Rd. The front of end of the bus was severely damaged and the train derailed following the collision.

Emergency responders arrived on the scene shortly after the accident and 31 people were taken to hospital for treatment, with 11 in critical condition, according to city officials. Three others left the scene with minor injuries and took themselves to area hospitals.

Police say the they?ve identified three of the deceased but details have not been released to the public due to privacy concerns. Police are reaching out to next of kin.

CBC News has identified the bus? driver as Dave Woodard.

According to Via Rail, there were?no injuries?to passengers and crew on the train, which included a locomotive and four passenger cars.

Witnesses say the bus failed to slow down as it approached the railway crossing, with passengers on board screaming ?stop? before the double-decker slammed into the oncoming train.

Tanner Trepaniere, a student who was on board the bus, said passengers could see the train bearing down on them as the vehicle proceeded towards a level crossing.

?People started screaming, ?Stop, stop!? because they could see the train coming down the track,? said Trepaniere, who was sitting in the upper level of the bus.

For reasons that remain unclear, the bus lumbered through the crossing and collided with the westbound train, shearing off the vehicle?s entire front end.

People are helped following a Via Rail train and a city bus collision in Ottawa?s west end Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013. (CP/Terry Pedwell)

?There was a lot of screaming, but then people were actually relatively calm, considering the situation,? Trepaniere said of the aftermath.

Parts of the stairway leading to the upper deck of the bus were torn away on impact, but most people still managed to scramble down and off the vehicle, Trepaniere said. Some injured, though, were unable to move.

Pascal Lolgis, who witnessed the crash, said the bus appeared to drive through a lowered crossing barrier.

?Boom! It went into the train like that,? Lolgis said. ?He didn?t stop. He must have lost his brakes. Or he had an ? attack or whatever.

?He just didn?t stop. He just keep going like that. Then he get hit.?
The scene following a Via Rail train and city bus collision in Ottawa?s west end Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013. (CP/Adrian Wyld)

Another witness who was on the top level of the double-decker also reports that it was the bus that ran into the moving train.

Robert Kurtenbach?told the Ottawa Citizen?the bus ?didn?t appear to slow down? and slammed into the train.

Darryl Praill, who was on a bus immediately behind the one struck, said he he did not witness the actual collision but described the grim scene afterward on Twitter.

The City of Ottawa?says?its Emergency Operations Centre had been activated following the crash.

Traffic on Woodroffe Ave. has been shut down and the Via Rail line between Ottawa and Toronto is cancelled for the time being, replaced by?chartered bus service?for the rest of the day.

Speaking at a late-morning news conference, city officials refused to speculate about the driver?s conduct until a full investigation was carried out, led by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada. The federal agency has assigned about a dozen investigators to the Ottawa crash.

The prime minister has extended his condolences to those effected.

?On behalf of all Canadians, Laureen and I extend our thoughts and prayers to all those affected by this tragedy,? said Stephen Harper in a statement.

With files from the Canadian Press

?El Grito? Celebration Marks Mexico?s Independence Day

Mexico independance dayOn September 16th People flooded the grounds and steps of City Hall on Sunday for the ?El Grito? celebration to mark Mexico?s Independence Day. This event took place in LA Downtown.

The annual event was sponsored by newly elected Councilmember Felipe Fuentes and attended by Mayor Eric Garcetti and Consul General of Mexico, Carlos M. Sada.? A collection of Mexican and Latino performers, including acclaimed Mexican performer, Ezequiel Pe?a, headlined the evening?s entertainment show.

The ?El Grito? celebration at City Hall marked Mexico?s 203rd anniversary of independence.

?I, like the other 1.2 million Mexican and Mexican-American Angelenos, am very proud of my heritage, and it brings me great pride to be this year?s sponsor for the ?El Grito? festivities,? said Councilman Fuentes.

Councilman Fuentes participated in a ceremony that re-enacted the historic ringing of the ?rebellion bell? that launched Mexico?s Spanish Independence War in 1810.

Central America Independence Day is Sept. 15th

Central America5 Latino countries’ victories help start HIspanic Heritage Month.

On September 15th, five Central American nations–Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua–celebrate 192 years of independence.

On this day in 1821, Central American notables accepted a plan drafted by Mexican Agust?n de Iturbide that declared the 5 nations free from Spain.

It’s also on this day National Hispanic Heritage Month starts, during which communities around the U.S. celebrate the diverse and dynamic Hispanic culture.

About National Hispanic Heritage Month

Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988, on the approval of Public Law 100-402.

The day of September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18, respectively.? (also, Columbus Day or D?a de la Raza, which is October 12, falls within this 30 day period).

Guatemalan bus plunges off cliff, killing at least 43

Guatemala accidentGUATEMALA CITY? – At least 43 people were killed and dozens injured on Monday when a bus went off a cliff on a hairpin bend in rural Guatemala, tumbling some 200 metres into a river at the bottom of a ravine, officials said.

Rescue workers said the bus, which plunged off of a paved highway about 60 km (37 miles) northwest of Guatemala City, was destroyed and more than 40 people were taken to hospitals for treatment.

Investigators do not yet know what caused the crash or what was the final destination of the bus, which was traveling south toward Guatemala City. Rescue workers said conditions were dry and mostly sunny and that the bus was likely over capacity.

?The bus was overloaded,? said Sergio Vasquez, a volunteer firefighter at the site.

He said 38 people died at the scene, including six children and 12 women. Five more died at hospitals, he said.

Local television said many passengers were vendors taking farm produce to market.

The government declared three days of national mourning.

The last major bus accident in Guatemala occurred in 2008 when an overcrowded bus slid off a highway and down a 15-metre slope some 65 km southeast of the capital, killing 53.

ATU delegates chart course for future at 57th Convention

ATU LogoDefining a strategic vision to raise standards and build power for transit workers, and to fight for more and better public transit, 567 delegates and their guests took part in an historic 57th convention in San Diego.

Delegates re-elected International President Larry Hanley and International Secretary-Treasurer Oscar Owens. International Vice President Javier Perez was elected to ATU?s number two spot as International Executive Vice President.

In addition, dramatic changes to the ATU structure were approved to better fight multi-national transit companies and funding measures were passed to sustain this efforts. Delegates also voted for a series of resolutions to increase educational and training opportunities.

?I am honored and humbled to be re-elected to lead a union of leaders and activists who make a difference in their communities,? said President Hanley. ?Our leaders recognized we face many challenges and voted to make critical changes to restructure ATU to better arm locals both large and small in these battles.??Read more.

DOL rules CA pension reform law conflicts with transit workers’ bargaining rights

In a long awaited decision, the U.S. Department of Labor found that California?s Public Employee Pension Reform Act (PEPRA), conflicted with transit employees? federally protected collective bargaining rights preventing approval of federal transit funding to the City of Sacramento.

The ruling was consistent with decisions involving state law changes in Wisconsin, Michigan, Massachusetts and other states.

In response Governor Jerry Brown moved quickly to propose legislation to exempt transit agency employees from PEPRA for up to 14 months. This will bring California into compliance with federal transit law and allow future grants to proceed.

?The ATU supports this bill as a measured approach to protect the rights of employees and to ensure that urgently needed transit funding flows to California.?We urge California legislators to pass this legislation in a timely manner,? said the ATU in statement.?Read more.

A victory for NYC school bus drivers and matronsNYC School buses


A Brooklyn federal judge handed New York City?s 8,800 school bus drivers and matrons a huge back-to-school victory.

The judge issued an injunction ordering 28 school bus companies to restore across-the-board cuts in wages and benefits that those firms slapped on their employees this year. The owners were also ordered to immediately resume ?good-faith bargaining? with ATU Local?1181?– New York, NY.

The pay cuts came only weeks after a bus strike, which resulted from Mayor Bloomberg?s plan to eliminate a bid provision for 1,100 bus routes serving special needs students that ensured the most experienced, well-trained operators and matrons are on the job.

The Local looks forward to working with a new mayor this fall to ensure the important employee protections for school bus drivers and matrons are reinstated.??Read more.

Rider pulls gun on Kelowna bus driver

Weeks after a Seattle bus driver was shot on the job, an angry rider pulled a gun on a bus driver in Kelowna, British Columbia.

The driver said he had reached the end of his route when the only remaining passenger became enraged. The passenger got off the bus and began walking away, but turned back and confronted the bus driver saying he would kill him, and pulled the trigger ? making audible ‘click’ sounds.

Violence against transit workers continues to rise across North America. The ATU is urging politicians and transit agencies in both countries to increase security for the safety of workers and riders.?Read more.

BART workers: Management & Radulovich unfairly mischaracterize contract talks

As the clock continues to tick on the 60-day cooling off period, BART Board Chair Tom Radulovich and management decided to throw false accusations at workers rather than sit down and find a solution to the labor dispute.

Bart workers I?BART workers don?t accept the mischaracterization of the bargaining to date.? Where was Radulovich when his $399,000 consultant took extended vacation over the summer?? said Local?1555?President Antonette Bryant in reaction to Radulovich accusing workers of bargaining in bad faith as the reason no progress has been made.

?The BART board and management may think our members and the riding public have no memory of how we got to this late point without a fair settlement,? Bryant continued.??We will continue to work sincerely with the mediator and strive to reach a fair contract for BART workers and a sustainable model for BART and its riders.” ?Talks are scheduled to begin next week.

Mexico police seek killer vigilante ‘Diana: the hunter of bus drivers’

Blonde assassin allegedly shot two men dead in separate incidents, claiming to be ‘instrument of vengeance for women’

A bus in Ciudad Ju?rez: the purported email from ‘Diana’ said the vigilante was taking revenge for attacks on women by bus drivers in the city. Photograph: Hemis/Alamy

A bus in downtown Ciudad Ju?rez, MexicoMexican prosecutors are investigating claims that a female vigilante killer is behind the murder of two bus drivers last week in the northern border city of Ciudad Ju?rez, apparently seeking revenge for the sexual abuse of female passengers.

An email from the self-styled “bus driver hunter” claiming responsibility for the assassinations echoed deeply in Ciudad Ju?rez, which has a grim history of sexual violence against women on buses.

On Wednesday morning a woman wearing a blonde wig ? or sporting dyed hair ? boarded one of the school bus-style vehicles that serve as transport in the city. She approached the driver, took out a pistol, shot him in the head and left the bus.

The next day, apparently the same woman did exactly the same thing to another driver on the same route. A witness quoted in Diario de Ju?rez claims to have heard the killer tell her second victim: “You guys think you’re real bad, don’t you?” before shooting him.

Over the weekend, media outlets started to receive emails from the address “Diana, the hunter of bus drivers”.

“I myself and other women have suffered in silence but we can’t stay quiet anymore,” the email said. “We were victims of sexual violence by the drivers on the night shift on the routes to the maquilas,” a reference to the border assembly plants that employ many residents in Ciudad Ju?rez. “I am the instrument of vengeance for several women.”

Authorities have not verified the authenticity of the email, or of a Facebook page set up under a similar name. But Arturo Sandoval, spokesman for the Chihuahua state prosecutors’ office, said the vigilante claim is considered a working hypothesis in the crimes. There was no apparent robbery involved in the killings.

“Now that we have the email in the case file, it indicates that this could have been someone who had a run-in with a driver or one of his relatives,” Sandoval said.

The government announced it would put undercover police aboard some buses and conduct weapons searches to prevent further killings, and said a citywide search for the suspect is already on.

“We have a police sketch of the suspect and we are looking for her,” municipal police spokesman Adrian Sanchez said.

Many of the women murdered during a string of more than 100 eerily similar women’s killings in Ciudad Ju?rez in the 1990s and early 2000s disappeared after boarding buses. Their bodies were often found weeks or months later, raped, strangled and dumped in the desert or vacant lots.

Several bus drivers were arrested in connection with those killings ? one had his conviction overturned and his co-defendant, another bus driver, died in prison before sentencing.

The head of the Chihuahua Women’s Human Rights Centre, Lucha Castro, said that perhaps the killer “or someone close to her suffered some abuse by one of these guys.

“It’s a fact that there are sexual abuse cases on the bus routes, but it’s no greater than women disappearing from the streets in downtown, in human trafficking rings.”

She added: “The most tragic thing is that the public may never know what the truth is.”

President Hanley: Time to make the American/Canadian Dream a reality again

President HanleyAs Americans/Canadians celebrate Labor Day with family and friends, they should take a moment to think about the hard working union men and women who fought, and even died, for many of the things we take for granted such as the 40 hour week, sick days, paid vacations, health care, just treatment, and retirement.

Unfortunately, most Americans/Canadians today are working harder than ever – longer hours, poorer conditions, two or more jobs ? but are barely able to make ends meet. Just like the workers in fast-food industry who staged a one-day strike last week to raise the minimum wage.

Meanwhile the rich continue to get richer.

Why? Because billionaires like the Koch brothers and the politicians who serve them continue to attempt to destroy democracy, gut public services, debilitate communities, and tear apart the laws that enable workers to collectively bargain.

There actually was a time in this country when individual workers could earn enough to support a family from a job in which they worked just 40 hours per week ? a job that also provided paid sick days, vacations, health insurance, and a pension.? But that kind of employment is a thing of the past for too many U.S./Canadian workers.

Our countries are now a nation of two classes ? the small cadre of the super rich and the rest of us, bus drivers, restaurant workers, telecom workers, firefighters, working families who are being unfairly blamed for the problems of our country.

It?s time to stop the race to the bottom that has become so prevalent here and abroad. Working Americans have sacrificed too much already. Transit riders have paid with record fare increases and service cuts. Jobs are being shipped overseas.

This Labor Day, it?s time for all workers to come together to demand that Congress find ways to put more people to work and improve the lives of all Americans. It?s time to make the American/Canadian dream a reality again.