Bus driver says he was using GPS before crash
A charter-bus driver who crashed into a low pedestrian bridge in the Washington Park Arboretum on Wednesday, sending more than 20 members...
Seattle Times staff reporters
A charter-bus driver who crashed into a low pedestrian bridge in the Washington Park Arboretum on Wednesday, sending more than 20 members of the Garfield High School softball team to the hospital, said he was following a GPS system and did not see signs warning of the bridge's height, police said.
The 52-year-old driver, Brad Adams, received a traffic infraction for "hitting a structure with an impaired clearance" and was cited for $154, said Seattle police spokesman Mark Jamieson.
The crash shortly after 6 p.m. sent 21 Garfield students and a coach to the hospital with minor injuries. The roof of the 12-foot-tall charter bus was ripped open and windows were shattered after the bus got stuck in the 9-foot underpass on Lake Washington Boulevard East, according to a Seattle police report.
Police said Adams said he was following a GPS system and did not see signs or flashing yellow lights indicating the low bridge height. He did not show any sign of alcohol or drug use and was not asked to take a sobriety test, police said.
Rick Sheridan, a spokesman for Seattle Department of Transportation, said there are four signs indicating a bridge-height restriction in the southbound lanes. He said there also is a sign indicating that vehicles over 5 tons are prohibited on Lake Washington Boulevard East.
Sheridan said the bus was over the 5-ton limit.
Steve Abegg, president of Journey Lines, said that driving through the Arboretum is not a normal route for the company's drivers. He said that Adams diverted from his original route, from Kirkland to the temporary Garfield High School near Green Lake, to Garfield's original location in the Central Area at the request of several passengers.
Abegg said Adams was using his own GPS device, which gave him the option to select whether he was using a car, bus or motorcycle — he chose the bus selection.
Abegg said the GPS system did not appear to factor in the height of bridges on the route.
The GPS device Adams was using is "very similar" to the system used in Journey Lines buses, Abegg said.
"Adams is a very intelligent person," Abegg said. "If you could read, and see, and hear, you could use this system [he was using]."
Adams has been placed on unpaid leave while Journey Lines conducts its own investigation into the accident, Abegg said.
Adams has never been disciplined by the company in the more than one year he has worked as a driver, Abegg said.
Adams was cited last year for speeding in Kitsap County.
Twenty-one Garfield High School softball players and their coach were on board the bus as it was returning from a game against Lake Washington High School at Crestwoods Park in Kirkland, said Seattle School District spokeswoman Patti Spencer.
Five of the girls were taken immediately by ambulances to Harborview Medical Center with neck and back pain, according to the Seattle Fire Department.
Spencer said all of the students and the coach were treated at Harborview. The students were given Thursday and today off from their classes to recover from the incident, Spencer added. Sixteen students took Thursday off, district officials said.
All practices and games for the next two weeks have been canceled so the players can recover from the crash, said district spokesman David Tucker.
Tucker said the district has contracted with Journey Lines for at least 15 years.
Seattle Department of Transportation crews inspected the footbridge on Thursday morning and found little damage, Sheridan said. The bridge remains open.
"There is no structural damage," Sheridan said. "There is only minor damage to the concrete."
When Journey Lines was last inspected by the state Utilities and Transportation Commission in February, the company was issued a satisfactory rating, said agency spokeswoman Marilyn Meehan.
Two years ago the company was issued a $300 fine after parents chaperoning students from Lowell Elementary School in Everett reported smelling fumes while on their way to an event. The company was cited for failing to maintain bus floors and for safety issues — there was mold growing on the bus and inoperative emergency lights on board.
The company, which has been in business for 16 years, had no accidents between 2006-07, Meehan said. The company was involved in accidents in 1998 and 2005, but she didn't have any details.
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or email@example.com
Seattle Times staff reporter Steve Miletich and news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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