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Driver of bus that jumped the curb at Cordata Station will not be cited. Here’s why

The driver of this WTA bus mistakenly hit the gas pedal instead of the brakes, causing the bus to slam into the concourse at Cordata Station on Thursday, according to police.
The driver of this WTA bus mistakenly hit the gas pedal instead of the brakes, causing the bus to slam into the concourse at Cordata Station on Thursday, according to police. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

A Whatcom Transportation Authority bus driver who drove onto the sidewalk at Cordata Station, injuring three people and destroying an enclosure for waiting passengers, won’t be cited but will face internal action, officials said.

Three people were taken to St. Joseph hospital with minor injuries after the 9:30 a.m. Wednesday crash involving the driver of Route 331, Bellingham Fire and WTA officials said. Injuries were bruises and cuts from flying glass.

Bellingham Police didn’t name the driver, because he isn’t being cited or charged with a driving offense, said Sgt. Carr Lanham.

Lanham said the driver mistakenly hit the gas pedal instead of the brakes, causing the bus to slam into the concourse at Cordata Station, where it damaged an overhanging roof and flattened a glass and metal enclosure designed to shield waiting passengers from the elements.

Lanham said the bus station is not a public roadway, so no traffic citation was warranted.

WTA spokeswoman Maureen McCarthy said WTA policy prevents sharing of information regarding discipline of specific employees.

“We have standard procedures for how we handle post-accident activities, including a thorough post-accident investigation,” McCarthy said. “The post-accident investigation includes drug and alcohol testing for the driver, testing for mechanical defects, interviewing the driver, interviewing witnesses, reviewing the police report (if applicable), reviewing relevant video, and reviewing other environmental factors.”

McCarthy said the driver has been on paid administrative leave since the crash and that leave will last through Friday. She said he tested negative for drug and alcohol use.

“Regarding discipline, we have a standard post-accident procedure for this as well,” McCarthy said. “Our policy is not to share details regarding discipline about specific employees. I can tell you we would classify this as a major accident. A major accident is any collision which results in injuries and/or $2,500 or more in damage.”

She said the driver has worked at WTA for 10 years, and has 8 1/2 consecutive years of safe driving, without a collision.

A full damage estimate was unavailable, pending an insurance evaluation of the bus and the station.

The bus was one of the WTA’s newer hybrid diesel-electric buses with “near-zero” emissions, which had a cost of $594,000 when they went into service in 2013, according to The Bellingham Herald archives.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty

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