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A tragic scene played out in the Canadian capital of Ottawa when a moving bus crashed into a bus shelter claiming the lives of three victims and leaving almost two dozen others injured.

The accident happened at 3:50 p.m. local time on Friday when the second floor of the bus struck the roof of the Westboro bus station, which is located in the city's Westboro neighborhood.

The investigators worked all night to identify with certainty the three victims and to make contact with their families and loved ones.

OC Transpo has issued notices saying detours are in effect for the Dominion and Westboro transit stations.

Bilal Gill, a passenger on the upper deck, told broadcaster CBC News that people at the front were pinned under their seats.

Ottawa's mayor Jim Watson spoke at a press conference of a "grey misfortune". "I know all those impacted by this tragedy will be surrounded and supported by many", Bordeleau wrote in a tweet published late Friday evening.

Mailloux says his first thought was for his wife and son, who were scheduled to be travelling through the area shortly after the crash. One remains in critical condition while six others are still listed as serious and four have been upgraded to stable.

Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau told reporters that the most serious injuries occurred on the top right side of the bus.

Ottawa police say there will be no quick or easy answers to questions swirling around a deadly bus crash on a busy city route.

He went outside and came across a "chaotic" scene, with at least 30 emergency vehicles, including seven or eight fire trucks, and lots of police and bystanders, he said.

The Ottawa Police Service Crash Investigation Unit is also on site and will look into this incident.