SEATTLE — The driver of a Sound Transit bus says the brakes failed and he was unable to avoid hitting a car Monday night on an Interstate 405 transit ramp, killing two people.
The bus continued about a half-mile before it came to a stop in the high-occupancy vehicle lane, said Washington State Patrol Trooper Julie Judson.
Witnesses said the northbound bus ran a red light at the intersection on the ramp at the Totem Lake freeway station, Judson said. The bus broadsided a westbound 2010 Ford Escape on the passenger side.
The impact killed a Bellevue couple who were passengers in the SUV. Robert Rotta, 76, died at the scene, and Elizabeth Rotta, 75, later died at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, the patrol said.
The driver, believed to be their son, Kendall Rotta, 51, of Kirkland, also was taken to Harborview Medical Center. He was reported in satisfactory condition Tuesday, said spokeswoman Susan Gregg.
The Route 535 bus, headed from Bellevue to Lynnwood at 9:30 p.m. Monday, carried 35 passengers. One was treated at nearby Evergreen Hospital in Kirkland and several had minor injuries, Judson said.
The bus driver, Aleksandr Rukhlin, 54, of Everett, was not injured. He said he was unable to stop sooner because of brake failure, Judson said.
Rukhlin cooperated with investigators. He was evaluated by a drug expert and did not appear to be impaired, she said. He voluntarily gave a blood sample for an alcohol test.
The bus is being inspected for brake or other mechanical problems. The crash is being reconstructed to determine if the bus was speeding and whether the driver was at fault.
It was the first fatal Sound Transit bus accident since the service began in 1999, said spokesman Bruce Gray. The agency is cooperating with the State Patrol, he said.
The situation is complicated because Sound Transit service in Snohomish County is contracted with Community Transit. And Community Transit contracts with the company First Transit for drivers, said spokesman Martin Munguia.
Community Transit is conducting an internal investigation, he said. The 5-year-old bus is fairly new and had routine maintenance and inspections, Munguia said. The driver is on paid leave for the investigation, which includes the agency’s own drug and alcohol tests.