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May 9, 2013 at 3:15 PM

Bus in Kirkland fatal wreck passed a safety check a week earlier

The Sound Transit bus in Monday night’s I-405 crash that left two people dead passed a routine safety inspection a week earlier, according to a maintenance log released by Sound Transit Thursday.

During a 30-minute test drive on May 1, a mechanic looked into a complaint the bus pulled right, but found that it “did not pull, and didn’t pull when braking,” he wrote. Also, the brake pads were all a quarter-inch thick, putting them above the minimum standard, the log says.

The bus driver, Aleksander Rukhlin of Everett, told troopers Monday night he believed the brakes failed when the bus hit an SUV driven by Ken Rotta and carrying his parents, Robert and Elizabeth Rotta of Bellevue. Both his parents died as a result of the crash and Ken Rotta was injured .

The bus, which was on the Route 535 run to Lynnwood, was traveling uphill at an exit at the Totem Lake Transit Center in Kirkland, where witnesses say it went through a red light and hit the right side of the SUV.  The bus continued for another half mile on a ramp toward northbound I-405 after the impact.

Maintenance logs are just one piece of evidence in an investigation that will last at least two more weeks.

Washington State Patrol detectives will re-interview all 24 bus passengers, said Trooper Julie Judson. Then, the WSP will obtain a search warrant to gather video and any physical evidence from the bus, now parked in a storage yard in Bellevue. Technicians will then perform a half-day examination of brakes and other components, she said. A search warrant is standard procedure in such cases. Troopers initially said the bus driver wasn’t noticeably impaired, but a blood sample was taken as is customary after a transit crash.

The bus shows green-and-blue Sound Transit colors but is operated under contract by Community Transit, which contracts with First Transit for operations and maintenance.

Sound Transit said it released a First Transit log due to requests from news organizations, but noted, “Please do not interpret, or convey in any way to your viewers or readers, that our providing this document per your request reflects any conclusion whatsoever on the part of Sound Transit about the cause of this tragic accident. We will rely on the thorough Washington State Patrol investigation…”

Sound Transit and its operating contractors “maintain a rigorous preventative maintenance program on all fleet vehicles,” spokesman Bruce Gray emphasized.

This is the first fatality on Sound Transit’s ST Express bus network since service began in 1999, said Gray.  Nationally, an average of 87 people a year died in transit bus incidents, of whom 30 victims were in other motor vehicles, according to the National Transit Database for 2008-12.  By comparison, 32,367 persons were killed in other motor vehicles in 2011.

Here is the inspection report:

[do action="doccloudnew" url="698646-pm-record"/]

 

Comments | More in General news, Government, The Blotter, Traffic & Transit | Topics: bus, fatal crash, Kirkland

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