Judge: Bus crash no rights violation

Two pedestrians' deaths are ruled not to be a federal issue



PORTLAND (AP) — A federal judge has tossed a suit against a Portland transit agency and the bus driver who struck five people, killing two of them.

The federal suit claimed that the accident in April 2010 violated the victims’ constitutional rights. U.S. District Court Judge Michael Mosman rejected that claim.

The case was dismissed with prejudice, meaning it can’t be re-filed.

Driver Sandi Day made an illegal left turn near the end of her shift when the 16-ton bus plowed into five people crossing the street.

Two women — Danielle Sale, 22, of Vancouver and Jeneé Hammel, 26, of Gresham, Ore. — died under the bus; Hammel’s brother, his wife, and Sale’s boyfriend were injured.

TriMet fired Day after an investigation. In 2011, a Multnomah County judge found Day guilty on six traffic charges, including four counts of careless driving.

The judge said Day must pay more than $1,000 in fines, do 200 hours of community service and complete a traffic safety course.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of Sale accused TriMet and Day of an “arbitrary governmental taking” of the woman’s life.

Day’s negligence behind the wheel, the suit alleged, amounted to a government employee “interfering with fundamental rights implicit in the concept of an ordered liberty.”

The pedestrians had just left a comedy club and had the right of way in a crosswalk when Day made a courtesy stop for a late-night rider to get off where there was no official bus stop. She illegally crossed a lane as she turned left from Northwest Glisan Street onto Broadway.

Day “chose to speed through the intersection without braking until she hit the pedestrians,” one lawsuit alleged.

Other suits pending

David Sale, the father of Danielle Sale, and Vicki Flynn, the mother of Jeneé Hammel, filed lawsuits against the transit agency in Multnomah County Circuit Court. Those cases are still pending.

The crash triggered an extensive safety review by TriMet. However, the federal lawsuits claimed TriMet “had a policy and practice” of encouraging drivers to accelerate unsafely and make illegal turns.

The agency, the complaints said, also knew about hazardous blind spots for short-stature drivers on buses and about unsafe courtesy stops.

In a release Friday, TriMet spokeswoman Roberta Altstadt said the Amalgamated Transit Union is “challenging Day’s termination and the matter is awaiting arbitration.” TriMet hired Day in October 2007.