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Three people were killed and 23 injured when a double-decker city bus struck a transit shelter in Ottawa on Friday afternoon, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson says.

According to reports, the incident occurred during rush hour at the busy transit station in the west end of the city.

"Where I was, there was blood pooling underneath the seats just in front of me", he told CTV Ottawa, describing the immediate aftermath of the crash."People's bodies were being pushed up and compressed in the seats". Of those transported, 14 were in critical condition and 11 were in serious condition, paramedic chief Myles Cassidy said at a news conference.

While the cause of the crash is still unknown, Mailloux said he has often noted the express buses travelling through the area at high speeds. "And as I got a better look, I saw how damaged the front of the bus was and it came obviously clearly right after that people were really, seriously hurt".

The investigation will take a long time and likely would mean the closure of the busway and nearby roads for at least many hours, Bordeleau said. This particular bus was not scheduled to stop at the Westboro station, which is another aspect being probed in the investigation.

Police chief Charles Bordeleau said "several people were trapped on the upper level" of the bus before being freed.

While police initially took the female driver of the bus into custody, they said Saturday she had been released without charges.

"Accidents can happen", Bordeleau said, adding the service carries millions of passengers per-year, while such crashes remain a rarity.

Buses were being detoured as a result of the accident, OC Transpo said. The bus could have been holding as many as 90 passengers.

The family reunification centre at the Churchill Seniors Centre has since been closed, but people seeking information about family members involved in Friday's crash can call the Canadian Red Cross at 1-855-797-8875.