OC Transpo bus passengers screamed 'stop'

An OC Transpo bus slammed into a train along the transitway which borders Woodroffe Ave. in Ottawa,...

An OC Transpo bus slammed into a train along the transitway which borders Woodroffe Ave. in Ottawa, Wednesday Sept 18, 2013. Tony Caldwell/Ottawa Sun/QMI Agency

DANIELLE BELL, CHRIS HOFLEY, MEGAN GILLIS and DOUG HEMPSTEAD, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:52 PM ET

OTTAWA -- All she knows is that the firefighter has green eyes.

"That's the point when I just couldn't move. He held onto my hands and said, don't look anywhere, just look into my eyes. He was trying to get me to walk down the stairs - the stairs were barely there. It was just so gruesome, the bodies and blood," Shamsia Quraishi, 30, said.

The front of the bus was gone, five of its passengers and the driver were killed. A man who'd been hurled from the bus face down didn't move again. A neon-clad cyclist who'd put his bike on the rack was beneath the bus. People sat sobbing on the grass in the aftermath of the crash just before 9 a.m.

"If that guy hadn't helped me, I don't think I would have gotten off the bus. I don't know his name. All I know is he has green eyes."

For passengers on the train and bus, what began as an otherwise uneventful morning would, in a split second, turn tragic.

Gregory Mech was on the second level of the double-decker bus.

"There were screams for him to stop," Mech said. "I saw bodies."

Vishnu Komenduri was travelling to his new life in Toronto, where he was moving from Quebec, his three-month-old daughter in tow.

"We didn't realize anything until it happened. There was panic," said Komenduri, as train crash unfolded. "It was really scary. It was really a gruesome incident."

Romi Gupta, 40, had just hopped on her OC Transpo express bus when all hell broke lose.

"(It was) crazy, people were flying," said Gupta, who was thrown onto the bus stairs.

Gupta called her husband minutes after the crash to let him know she was OK.

At one point Gupta was holding a baby while the parent was helped. The baby was unhurt, she said.

She said she saw the train coming at the last minute.

"I thought the bus was going to stop, but it kept on going," she said.

She described the bus as "over-full" with people standing on the top level, something she said isn't usually allowed on the double-deckers.

Student Justin Trepanier, 19, has never felt so lucky. He usually tries to get a seat in the front of the bus -- it's quicker getting off the bus that way. Wednesday, through what he calls "the luck of the draw," he wound up in the back where he sat, almost oblivious and listening to country music.

"The first thing I remember is people yelling -- STOP!" he said, adding the bus was so full, people were standing.

"There was obvious carnage, people who you could tell were dead on impact," he said. "It kind of feels like a movie."

Trepanier was impressed with how passengers helped each other amidst the chaos and terror.

"There was a couple guys who were holding the door up from the bottom to let people out," he said. "There was one guy who stayed with a lady at the top who had a broken leg, just to make sure she was consoled."

Nearly eight hours later, standing on the tracks looking at the derailed train and demolished bus, Trepanier wonders why the stars aligned for him.

"It's just a matter of your place in line, to get on the bus," he said. "I try not to think of it too much."

Cedrick Gonga-Cave dropped his mom Bridget off on the bus, then heard about crash. At least an hour after it, he still had yet to track down his mom. "I'm worried," he said.

Rob Gencarelli, a University of Ottawa student. was on the train trying to get to Toronto as it slammed into the bus, but some passengers were unaware of what had happened.

"There was a little bit of panic," Gencarelli said.

The conductor made an announcement.

Gencarelli said he is "amazed he's in the midst of a rail safety probe in one of the worst crashes in Ottawa history.

"I'd like to hear a little bit more about why this happened," Gencarelli said.

Several family and friends began showing up at the Nepean Sportsplex, as emergency officials directed them there for information in the aftermath of the crash.

Abera Feyissa was relieved to learn his teenage son, who was on the bus, OK. He quickly left to reunit with him in hospital.

"I'm shocked," Feyissa said. "I need to see him."

Red Cross and Salvation Army volunteers joined trauma counsellors at the Sportsplex, where food, blankets and comfort awaited family and friends of those affected by the crash.

"It's pretty somber right now; there's a few hugs being given out right now," said Red Cross volunteer David Fraser.


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