Questions Remain after Fatal Sound Transit Bus Accident in Kirkland

Two SUV passengers were killed Monday night in an accident with a Sound Transit bus on Interstate 405 in Kirkland, according to reports from the Washington State Patrol (WSP).

Police say the bus was exiting I-405 near 128th Street at about 9:30 p.m. and crashed into a 2010 Ford Escape that was traveling east on the Northeast 128th Street overpass. The bus allegedly continued to 160th Street before it stopped.

76-year-old Robert Rotta and 75-year-old Elizabeth Rotta, both passengers in the SUV, were seriously injured and transported to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle with life-threatening injuries. They were both pronounced dead at Harborview just after 2 a.m.

The driver of the SUV, identified as 51-year-old Kendall Rotta, sustained serious injuries in the crash and was admitted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. He is listed in serious condition but is expected to survive.

Details Surrounding Kirkland Bus Accident

The driver of the Sound Transit bus, a 54-year-old man from Everett, claims that the bus would not stop because the brakes had failed, causing the bus to continue for about two miles after the initial crash occurred. News reports indicate that multiple passengers had called into 911 to report that their bus had been in a collision and that the bus driver was unable to stop the bus. Some passengers on board the bus did suffer minor injuries in the crash, according to Trooper Julie Judson.

Geoff Patrick, a spokesman for Sound Transit, said that the company could not confirm reports about brake failure on board the bus. He added that bus maintenance work is contracted out through a different company, but did not specify the name of the company responsible for maintaining the buses.

Police reports also show that the bus driver exhibited no signs of impairment from drugs or alcohol. A blood sample was taken – per standard procedure in crashes such as this one – and the WSP will analyze the results as part of their investigation.

Potential Liability in Deadly Bus Crash

The WSP will also begin to inspect the bus on Tuesday at an official WSP storage yard in Bellevue, where the bus that was involved in the accident is being held.

“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,” says Judson.

Clearly, the WSP and other authorities do not want to jump to any conclusions about what may have caused this accident because of how disastrous it was. However, the fact that the bus ran a red light and was unable to come to a stop for more than 30 blocks suggests that brake failure may have been the cause of the crash.

Importance of Acting Quickly in Wrongful Death Cases

Wrongful death cases are typically much more complicated to pursue because of how complex the details of these cases can be. First, it is important that personal representatives be appointed to the estate of the victims so that the estate then has legal authority to request records and other evidence to be used in the case.

Since Sound Transit reported that bus maintenance is done on a contract basis, it is also important to determine which company is responsible for vehicle maintenance and also to obtain maintenance records for the bus in question.

Tracking down witnesses to the crash – including passengers who were on board the bus at the time of the accident – will also be important in determining liability in a wrongful death action.

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