Saturday, December 20, 2008

Two Buses Dangle Through Guardrail in Downtown Seattle

Two buses, which had 80 students combined, dangle 20-to-30 feet above I-5 after sliding down snow and ice covered E. Thomas St. and crashing through the Melrose Ave. E. guardrail. December 19, 2008. photo Dan DeDelong/SeattlePI.
Two buses, which had 80 students combined, dangle 20-to-30 feet above I-5 after sliding down
snow and ice covered E. Thomas St. and crashing through the Melrose Ave. E. guardrail.
December 19, 2008. photo Dan DeDelong/SeattlePI.

Eighty Students Dangle Over I-5 Downtown Seattle Guardrail
Huge Winter Storm Sends TWO Buses SCREAMING Over Edge

Friday, two chartered Job Corp buses, between then packed with 80 student/workers just minutes away from their destination in Seattle for the holidays, went screaming down a snowy ice covered hill.

One bus bounced off another, and both went through the guardrail and dangled 20 to 30 feet over the busy downtown I-5 freeway.


Packed with students ready for the holidays, two chartered buses headed downtown Friday on Seattle's icy, snowy streets.

Drivers had taken the buses -- weighing tens of thousands of pounds -- down East Thomas Street because it is part of a loop used by buses exiting northbound Interstate 5 onto Olive Way. They can't turn left where Olive crosses Denny Way.

Suddenly, "I was watching the cars drive below us," said Jesse Till, a 20-year-old passenger who was on the phone with his mother at the time.

The two Northwestern Trailways buses slid down the snow-covered cobblestones of East Thomas on Capitol Hill and smashed into each other, careening through a guardrail on Melrose Avenue East, 20 to 30 feet above Interstate 5.

Till's one thought: "I'm going to die."

Seattle police were investigating the accident Friday, but a report could take months to complete, department spokeswoman Renee Witt said.

Neither driver received a citation at the scene, she said, and "drivers were not aware of the icy conditions on East Thomas."

Passenger Rico Collins, 16, said the buses exited I-5 at Olive Way, taking a route westbound down East Thomas. The first bus hit the railing and the second apparently turned at the last moment striking it on the side instead of the rear.

"It almost pushed the first bus off," said Jessica Gilbertson, a 19-year-old from Burien who was on the second bus.

Students pulled emergency window latches and jumped out windows.

"I was just sitting in the back of the bus, and I didn't think anything like this would happen," said Collins, who was on the second bus.

Judi Milburn said she saw the accident as she was walking down Thomas.

Had the second bus not turned, it would have hit the first bus square-on from the rear and knocked it over the barrier, Milburn said.
Note that all of the eye witnesses are given equal authority, with the ones on the bus with the most dramatic quotes being quoted first. "If it bleeds, it leads."

Sure, we all want to get readers. I gave y'all some great headlines. Everyone wants readership. Still, the 19 year old who says "it almost pushed the first bus off" conflicts with Judi Milburn at the end of the piece (whom isn't technically quoted) who says it was the driver of the second bus whom (paraphrasing) saved everyone by turning and NOT hitting the first bus square-on; turning into the side of the bus. That driving head-on into the end of bus one would have resulted in a sudden stop with the wheels pointed in the direction of travel...transferring all of the second bus' energy into the first bus and knocking it ka-BOOM over and down onto Interstate-5.

I suspect Judi is right, and that the driver of bus two did an amazing job under tough circumstances, first reflexively (muscle memory/training memory) knowing what to do, and then (again, muscle memory/training memory) managing to get that huge bus to do the right thing while it was sliding down the hill, the adrenaline pumping, kids screaming. With seconds available at best, he/she GOT IT RIGHT.

Bus two's driver SHOULD be promoted; and will be lucky to keep driving. *smiles sadly*

We won't know the accident results for months; we'll never know if we can trust them. The results will be trustworthy only if the accident investigation crew doesn't turn political and stays relentlessly competent. I give it 30% odds. We're dealing with snow, which isn't something Seattle investigates frequently, thus doesn't really know what they're doing; kids, which freaks everyone out; and it's Seattle, which throbs with political influence, although admittedly not like Chicago, LA, Boston, San Francisco or New York City.

Here in the Pacific Northwest we manage to do okay with our corruption, evil and meanness (see the recent case of would-be Congresswoman Darcy Burner who was taken down because she got seriously involved in a fight which cost the publisher of the Seattle Times tens of millions of dollars directly, and kept him from making the Seattle Times a monopoly, which would have been worth hundreds of millions in money, plus much more in influence.) In spite of all this, as Frank Blethen and the woman-hating Dave Reichert's hit-job on Darcy Burner showed, for a town that rains seven months a year and exists wired to the gills on coffee in spite of our massive seasonal depression, Seattle is pretty fucking evil and corrupt.

Thus my concern about the forthcoming investigation.

Here is at least some of what I'd like to know...

Why didn't someone in the City of Seattle have that route blocked off? It isn't as if it's some huge mystery what route buses heading in to the bus terminal routinely take. And the bus terminal should have scouted the route and had the route blocked as well. Both the City and Greyhound were asleep at the switch.

I can't say for sure the first driver shouldn't have gone down the hill. I wasn't there so I don't know. The second driver for sure has less culpability than the first, as she/he was in train. Not to mention managing to keep enough control/steering to save the lives of the people in the first bus through not knocking them onto the Interstate.

Everyone else needs to answer questions.

Accidents happen. It's why they're called accidents.

Oh... directly below the accident location, on the OPPOSITE side of the Interstate, the night before (Thursday night) about 5:20 pm, I got off the Interstate into downtown Seattle.

Moments before I'd been heading south on I-5 at 40-50 mph in heavy snow and ice, moderate traffic. It was rush hour, but only moderate traffic 'cause of the roads being all snowy with ice underneath. Not to mention ALMOST NO ONE out here knows how to drive in the freaking snow. *shudders*

Suddenly ka-BAM and my car, with a SEMI and other cars all as far away from me as I can possibly get them, my car starts to go a bit wonky. Of course there's snow and ice everywhere, so what the hell, it could be I've hit a really bad patch. And there's a lot of noise. Not to take chances, I move over to the right and exit as I just told you, directly across from where the following day the two buses almost crash onto the Interstate.

Turns out someone lost a snowchain and it wrapped around my back left tire at 40-50 and DESTROYED my tire, as in, ripped the mother-fucker to shreds. Holes through the sidewall all the way around every 2-3 inches, ka-wham, ka-wham, ka-wham, ka-WHAM. Like someone took a two inch drill (with a severe wobble and sandpaper attached to the edges) and intentionally FUCKED with my tire. Plus my wheel isn't looking that great by this time, either.

I'm a gimp, so it isn't as if I can change the tire myself. I have trouble lifting more than about 10-15 pounds, let along pumping up a jack. I drove the flatted tire, by now on the wheel which isn't sparking as there's snow and ice on the street, looking for a service station. This being a major downtown, there isn't one. Finally I found a Firestone tire store. It being 5:40 pm, they were closed with not even someone doing the books, late. I drove on.

Eventually I found a self-service gas station and called a tow truck. What with a massive winter storm in progress, there wasn't any problem at all getting someone to me immediately. < / sarcasm > It only took 90 minutes and I considered myself lucky. The towing company charged me $100.00 to change my flat.

Does anyone know if they ripped me off, or is that normal? (I thought I had AAA. Turns out my card is expired. Bleah.)

The wheel itself was destroyed, so he threw the whole thing in the dumpster. Today (friday) when I bought a new tire and wheel, total cost was $181.xx, including installation. That was for a cheap tire. And I only had to wait 2 hours. But my full-sized spare is back in my trunk. I always have a full-sized spare. That little dinky spare is for people who don't drive through Arizona and California and up the side of Mt. Rainer. Mt. Baker. Mt. Lawson. Live, active volcanoes. Or out in the middle of real deserts or over mountain ranges where you actually DO pack a full kit and check your vehicle EVERY time before starting out, no kidding. I was trained young. I was trained well. I'm still alive and not everyone whom I grew up with even made it to 20. Some didn't make it till 15.

The winter storm is passed.

Late Saturday - early Sunday we're expecting a new winter storm...

GALE FORCE WINDS GUSTING TO 90 MPH. Six inches to two to three feet of snow. Trees down including major trees. EXTENDED power outages of one to two days in many areas, three days or more in others. That's at sea level. This according to local papers, radio, television.

Welcome to the Pacific Northwest. Joy.

Here's a quick video of the bus wreck.

And how's the weather in your world?

Kyle and I stocked up on canned foods. We're ready to sit out at home.