TriMet bus plows into four vehicles in inner SE Portland

By the way, East Portland News Service was the ONLY
medium to put out the correct information on this story!

When you see the photos of the wreckage,
you’ll wonder how no one was killed.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The woman finishes scribbling a note, and stands, looking anxious, by the yellow police-line tape which cordons off the accident scene at SE 12th Ave. and Division St. on Friday, December 22.

“They say the driver of the blue car ran a yellow light. They’re wrong. I just want to get the injured driver my name and phone number. I’m a witness,” Judy O’Neill tells us, as we prowl the scene to report on the accident. We call over a Portland Police Officer; he takes the note to the victim, as she’s being loaded into the ambulance.

This victim was heading north on SE 12th Ave. when a TriMet bus blew through a red light heading north on Divison St., an eyewitness says.

We see a line of crumpled vehicles which, moments before, were headed west on SE Division St. TriMet officials, Portland Police Bureau Accident Investigators, and medical personnel swarm the scene.

Eyewitness to bizarre smash-up
Asked if she saw it happen, O’Neill tells us she had a front-row seat to the terrifying collision.

“I was going west on SE Division St., the first in line when the light turned yellow, so I stopped, letting people turn left [from eastbound Division to northbound 12th Ave.]. I was waiting to turn right [north] on SE 12th Avenue. The light had just turned red.”

Just before O’Neill made her turn, she says she hesitated when she saw a blue car come north on SE 12th Ave., crossing Division St. on a green light.

“The bus just started going east on Division,” O’Neill states. “He’d been stopped picking people up. He went into the intersection, even though he had the red light. When the blue car entered the intersection and the bus hit the car.”

When the bus then lurched toward her car, O’Neill says she turned north on 12th Ave. to get out of the way.”

“I looked and saw the bus continue hitting car after car after car — not slowing down. Then it headed across the street, and took out the power pole, and came to a stop in the yard.”

The hot dog vendor at SE 12th Ave. and Division St. said he was surprised the bus didn’t slow down while smashing into vehicles ‚Äì until it was stopped by the utility pole. Look at the tire marks on the pavement!

Witness calls it a “surreal situation”
Matthew Breault owns and operates a vending cart, “Hot Dog Ernie’s”, at the intersection. Breault says he witnessed the smash-up looking eastward along SE Division St. from the NW corner of 12th Ave.

“The first thing I heard was a crash,” Breault tells us. “I looked up and saw the bike rack had fallen down on the front of the bus and was bouncing. In the intersection, the bus started drifting left [north] and hit a lot of [westbound] cars stopped, waiting at the red light.”

The TriMet bus hit the vehicles with such force, Breault added, it pushed and turned each of them several feet.

“What was odd was that the bus didn’t slow down,” continues Breault. You could hear the roar of the engine. It wasn’t speeding up. It sounded like something was wrong, like the bus driver’s foot was stuck, or had some kind of problem. The way it just kept going ‚Äì it was surreal, very surreal.”

Although at least drivers are left with heaps of twisted metal which moments before had been vehicles, only one person was sent to the hospital by ambulance.

Police and TriMet officials say “Under Investigation”
On scene, TriMet’s Peggy Hanson confirms a Route #4 TriMet bus was eastbound on Division St. and the twenty to thirty passengers on that bus weren’t seriously inured.

“Our [bus] driver is fine, and waiting to be interviewed,” Hanson says.

Some media outlets quoted TriMet’s spokesperson, Bruce Solberg, as saying the light was green for the bus, and that the blue car ran the red light and hit the bus.

We called Solberg to verify the reported statement, and he told us, “There are conflicting reports regarding who had the green light. We do have video on the bus, and a satellite system that will give us a lot of data. What would be most accurate to say now is that this incident is still under investigation.”

Police officials say it take some time to collect all the facts and that this accident is under investigation.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

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