California Bus Crash Sends Nine Disabled Adults To Hospital

Dec. 18, 2004
Some of the clients can't speak and firefighters had difficulty communicating with them.
California (AP) -- Inattentive driving may be to blame for a Friday morning bus crash that sent nine developmentally disabled adults to area hospitals, Walnut Creek police said.

About 9 a.m. a small bus operated by San Francisco-based Trans-Metro Express carrying nine passengers with various disabilities crashed head-on into a concrete pile on Lilac Drive under Interstate 680, behind Kaiser Hospital.

All nine passengers and the driver were taken to three different hospitals. The driver and one passenger had serious injuries but were stabilized at John Muir Medical Center, Lt. Loren Cattolico said.

The driver may have been talking to passengers when he veered left onto an island and crashed into the large concrete pillar, Cattolico said.

Cattolico did not release names of the driver or passengers, saying the reports would not be completed until Monday or Tuesday.

Buses from several companies contracted by the Regional Center of the East Bay pick up about 2,500 developmentally disabled adults every day and take them to hundreds of centers and programs in Contra Costa and Alameda counties, said Jim Burton, executive director of the center. The Regional Center coordinates the programs and transportation for each of the participants in the East Bay.

The bus that crashed Friday morning was on its way to Christmas parties at two vocational centers in Lafayette.

"They're not capable of traveling independently so they're picked up by this bus company," said Jacquie Allen, program director at Futures Explored, one of the centers.

Allen hurried to Kaiser to help identify the passengers and contact family members when she heard about the crash.

"They just looked like they were scared," she said.

Allen brought two of the passengers back to Futures in time for part of the Christmas festivities.

Some of the clients at Futures can't speak and firefighters had difficulty communicating with them.

Six of the moderately injured people were taken into Kaiser for evaluation, in case they were not able to alert rescue workers to an injury, a fire official said.

Neither Allen nor Burton could recall a traffic accident in the program in recent history.

"This will be thoroughly investigated," Burton said.

The Regional Center began working with Trans-Metro Express for busing about a year ago, Burton said. The California Highway Patrol had no record of citations or accidents for the company.

A company spokeswoman referred all questions to the Regional Center.

Caltrans inspectors said the crash did not damage the support pillar, Walnut Creek police reported.

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