'Gentle Giant' remembered 11 years after horrific bus accident

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by KYLE MOORE / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on November 27, 2009 at 7:58 PM

SHORELINE, Wash. - It's been 11 years since Metro bus driver Mark McLaughlin was shot and killed by a mentally ill man. On November 27, 1998, Mclaughlin was driving along the Aurora Bridge in Seattle when a passenger shot and killed him and then took his own life.

The accident sent the bus plunging off the bridge and into an apartment complex.

Today at McLaughlin's grave, friends and co-workers gathered to celebrate his life. Friend Parul Bachtel says the tragedy has brought drivers closer as they work together to improve security for all transit employees.

"There is a kinship amongst those that work here. Not just because of Mark's murder but the number of people who suffered assaults. That builds a strength amongst employees," he said.

Since the shooting Metro has hired a full-time police force. They have also added security cameras to the buses. Janis Fisher drives the same route along Aurora as McLaughlin. She remembers her former co-worker as a "gentle giant."

Today friends placed a wreath along the railing at the accident site. It's a visual for bus drivers to remember McLaughlin. Fisher says driving by the accident site has been "stressful." It's an event she can't put out of her mind especially around this time of year.

"I do think about it every Thanksgiving. I can't believe it's 11 years already," she said. "I am sure Mark is smiling on us."

The transit union says it will continue to place wreaths at the accident site and will work to improve the security on buses. Transit Union President and friend Bachtel says Mark would want it that way.

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