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Bus crashes into house in area plagued by accidents


Copyright © 2015 Albuquerque Journal

Antonia Lucero was lying on her couch Thursday morning, on her day off from work, watching the show “Friends” on her laptop when her entire house started shaking.

“All of a sudden, the wall came in and hit the couch. I actually thought it was an earthquake,” Lucero said.

It wasn’t. A city bus carrying five passengers crashed through the front of her house, knocked her off the couch and sent her crawling into her kitchen, screaming.

“I just kept crawling and screaming,” she said, still thinking it was an earthquake. “I thought everyone was dead.”

She realized what happened when she heard the passengers talking on the bus. Inside her house.

She stayed in the kitchen until someone opened the back door to check on her.

“I literally got hit by a bus this morning,” she said. “I’m thankful I’m OK. I got hit by a bus and nothing is broken, so I don’t care about all the stuff in the house.”

Gilbert Montaño, Mayor Richard Berry’s chief of staff, said that a van traveling southbound on Girard ran a red light and T-boned a city of Albuquerque ABQ Ride bus traveling eastbound on Coal. Video released by the city shows the van crashing into the bus and then the bus slamming into the house.

“Call 911, call 911,” the bus driver immediately yells, according to the bus’ surveillance video released by the city Thursday afternoon.

The bus, driven by a 15-year veteran, was knocked off the road and careened through the front yard before crashing into Lucero’s home.

Eight people were injured – the bus driver, the passengers, the man driving the van and Lucero. Seven of them were transported to the hospital, but none of the injuries was serious, Montaño said. He didn’t know if any of them had been released from the hospital late Thursday afternoon.

Girard was closed at Coal all morning and into the afternoon.

Rhiannon Schroeder, a mayoral spokeswoman, said the city will not immediately release the name of the bus driver. Rick De Reyes, ABQ Ride spokesman, said the bus was a route 97 Zuni bus, which travels from Downtown to Zuni and Wyoming, and back.

The white van that crashed into the bus had a shattered front windshield and the front passenger side door was smashed in. It belongs to Carroll Plumbing & Heating.

Employee Joe Silva told the company’s owner Benjamin Carroll that he was driving to a job near Girard and Garfield when the brakes of the van failed. Carroll said Silva possibly suffered a broken leg and a concussion, but said he hadn’t yet spoken to him at the hospital Thursday afternoon.

“It’s tragic what happened,” said Carroll, who started his business nearly 50 years ago.

A few other employees showed up soon after the crash.

“He is a young man, he’s strong, so he should be OK,” employee Roger Paniagua said of Silva. “I just hope everyone else is all right. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.”

Lucero’s neighbor, Ian Vetter, said he heard a loud crash around 10:15 a.m. He walked out and saw that the bus had rammed into Lucero’s house.

Vetter said accidents are a regular occurrence at the intersection of Coal and Girard – there were three in just the past week, he said. Neighbor Nirvana Blatchford said there have been crashes in most of her neighbors’ yards and she wants the city to make the area safer.

“It’s scary, our houses are getting driven into all the time,” Blatchford said, adding she wasn’t sure exactly why.

“We’ve moved bedrooms to the back of the house and the basement. The city needs to think about how they can prevent this from happening.”

Montaño said the city is looking into that issue, but that drivers also need to remember not to be distracted while driving, and to follow traffic signals and laws.

“We currently have folks looking into that exact question right now; we have staff working on the number of accidents that have happened,” Montaño said. “But … the video shows our bus driver doing exactly what the bus driver should have been doing.”

The bus, one of the city’s newer ones, costs about $500,000, Montaño said.

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