KIRKLAND, Wash. - The Washington State Patrol is trying to figure out what caused a Sound Transit bus to slam into an SUV, killing two of the car's occupants and sending a third to the hospital.
The accident happened Monday night as the bus was exiting Interstate 405 in Kirkland.
Trooper Julie Judson said several passengers on the bus called 911 to report that it had been in at least one collision and wasn't stopping.
The front right end of the Sound Transit bus T-boned the SUV at 128th Street, hitting on the passenger side, then continued on to 160th St.
Betty Rotta was sitting in the front passenger seat, her husband Bob was in the back behind her. Both died. Their son, 51-year-old Kendall Rota, was driving. He was taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he is in stable condition.
"What we see is when you have top to bottom damage like this... that was a horrible impact for the people. They probably didn’t see it coming,” said Trooper Julie Judson.
Initial reports from the State Patrol said the bus ran a red light.
The driver, whom investigators say was not drug or alcohol impaired, told them his brakes failed.
Trooper Judson said she saw no skid marks from the bus and there were no reports of bus mechanical issues prior to impact.
The bus is operated and maintained by Community Transit, which subcontracts to First Transit in Everett.
A First Transit spokesman said buses are inspected every 6,000 miles. The bus involved in the crash had its last maintenance check on April 26.
"We do know there are not a lot of brake problems with our buses, certainly not where brakes malfunction," said Martin Maugia, Community Transit.
The State Patrol is convening a team of experts to comb the bus and the SUV for clues into the crash.
"A piece of this will obviously be the inspection of the bus, establishing if there were any defects or if that was something that the driver felt was happening that didn't occur," said Judson.
The State Patrol said there were 35 passengers on the bus, and some suffered minor injuries.
"This is the first time I've seen even a serious-injury collision involving a bus," Judson said. "I would feel very comfortable getting on one. I think commuters should consider themselves safe."
The bus driver is out on administrative leave. KING 5 talked with his adult daughter, who said her father is so conscientious, he would stop a bus for an opossum.