May 7, 2013 at 11:59 AM
2 dead, 1 seriously hurt as bus hits SUV at Kirkland off-ramp
A couple riding in an SUV died Monday night when a Sound Transit bus struck their vehicle at an Interstate 405 exit in Kirkland, Washington State Patrol troopers said.
The SUV driver, Kendall L. Rotta, 51, survived the crash and is being treated at Harborview Medical Center.
The accident happened about 9:33 p.m. near Totem Lake Transit Center. The bus was exiting I-405 and apparently ran a red light. The SUV was traveling east on the Northeast 128th Street overpass, when the bus struck it on the passenger side.
Robert H. Rotta, 76, died at the scene, while his wife, Elizabeth E. Rotta, 75, passed away a few hours later at Harborview. Some bus riders had minor injuries, troopers said.
About 35 passengers were aboard the bus, a Route 535 running from Bellevue to Lynnwood. Several bus passengers called 911 to report the collision, and to say the bus had not immediately stopped after the collision. After the crash, at the crest of the uphill exit, the bus rolled downhill a half-mile, on a northbound ramp to I-405, troopers said.
The bus, a 2008 Gillig, is being inspected Tuesday by WSP investigators at a State Patrol storage yard in Bellevue. The bus driver, Aleksander Rukhlin, 54, of Everett, showed no signs of drug or alcohol impairment, but a blood sample was drawn as standard procedure, said WSP Trooper Julie Judson.
Sound Transit spokesman Geoff Patrick said the agency doesn’t yet know whether the bus brakes failed, as had been suggested by the driver. “We’re doing everything we can to support the investigation. Our hearts are with the victims, and we will follow the findings and take appropriate action, as what happened comes into better focus,” Patrick said. It was the first fatal collision involving a Sound Transit bus since the agency launched ST Express service in 1999, transit staff said.
The bus, like other Sound Transit routes originating in Snohomish County, is operated and maintained under contract by Community Transit, which subcontracts in this case with the company, First Transit.
The driver was interviewed Monday night by supervisors, and is now on paid administrative leave, said Martin Munguia, Community Transit spokesman.
Seattle Times staff reporter Brian M. Rosenthal and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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