ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An ABQ Ride driver beginning his shift on the Route 54 Bridge/Westgate bus Friday afternoon didn’t make it to the first stop.
The bus was crossing the intersection at Central Avenue and Unser Boulevard around 1:30 p.m. when a pickup truck in the intersection caused the bus to crash head-on into a Route 66 column designating Unser, according to the Albuquerque Police Department. The bus clipped a third vehicle but did not cause serious damage.
“This bus was driving southbound on Unser,” said Officer Simon Drobik, spokesman for APD. “From what witnesses told us, a vehicle traveling westbound possibly ran a red light, causing the bus to swerve off course, hitting the structure here.”
The bus driver was transported to a hospital, where he was treated for minor injuries. The other driver was treated on the scene.
Police did not release the names of either men. Both vehicles were totaled by the crash and had to be towed away.
“I realized that was the bus I was just on and I had to come see if he was OK,” said Stephanie Gallegos, the previous driver of the Route 54 bus. “It’s amazing that the bus got turned all around like that. I’ve been here for 15 years and this is the worst bus accident I’ve ever seen.”
Gallegos said she was thankful the bus was just starting its route so no passengers were on it at the time.
“I feel like I should have talked to him for just a minute longer,” she said.
Police closed Central east of Unser for several hours while they considered how to safely extricate the bus from the Route 66 structure.
City engineers initially were concerned that removing the bus could cause it to topple, Drobik said, but when the bus was towed, shortly after 4 p.m., the structure remained standing.
“Unser and Central is a high pedestrian and traffic area, and we have lots of people coming through here,” he said. “Buses can be replaced, structures can be replaced and we’re lucky no one got injured.”
Drobik said there wasn’t any sign of intoxication from the pickup truck driver and doesn’t believe he will be charged. The insurance companies will investigate to determine liability.
“It was just a basic accident in the middle of the intersection,” Drobik said. “Fortunately, that structure was there to stop the bus.”