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Bus Crashes Off Seattle Bridge

November 28, 1998

SEATTLE (AP) _ Sara Krause and Dave Chacone were chatting on an apartment house porch when a crashing noise drew their eyes upward to the Aurora Bridge.

In horror, they froze as a city bus, with at least 35 people aboard, burst through the concrete railing of a bridge above and plummeted toward them.

The bus, its driver shot by a passenger, plowed through the bridge guardrail Friday afternoon and plunged into a crowded neighborhood street.

The driver was thrown free and killed as the bus fell about 50 feet, smashing into the roof and front of the two-story apartment house before coming to rest in the building’s yard.

A passenger who had been shot in the head died at Harborview Medical Center. The rest suffered a variety of injuries ranging from minor arm pain to a broken neck and internal injuries, and one was in critical condition.

``We were outside talking, heard a noise, looked up and saw this bus coming,″ Chacone said. ``I looked up and saw some big chunks (of railing) coming right at me.″

Krause was grazed by a piece of concrete, but neither she nor anyone else on the ground was hurt. Seconds before the accident, an open-air bus loaded with tourists had driven by the yard where the Metro bus landed.

``This is a busy, urban neighborhood,″ said Judy Jurji, who was getting mail from her porch when the bus fell across the street. ``It’s just a miracle that more people were not hurt.″

Police did not immediately know why the driver was shot or who did the shooting. A handgun was recovered at Harborview’s emergency room, but police said it was not with the passenger who died. Hospital spokeswoman Tina Mankowski said it apparently had not been fired.

``Possibly this is our suspect, possibly it’s another victim shot by the suspect,″ police spokeswoman Christie-Lynn Bonner said.

Police said the driver, when he was shot, lost control of the southbound bus and it careened across the northbound lanes and off the north end of the bridge that crosses the Lake Washington Ship Canal.

The falling bus ``looked like it was just diving toward the apartment building. We heard this horrible crunch and saw lots of people running over there,″ Jurji said.

``We heard moans, I heard a couple of voices saying, `Help me, help me.‴

The articulated bus was ripped apart by the fall from the landmark bridge. Its two 30-foot sections lay at right angles as neighbors braved the shredded metal and spilled diesel fuel to help the bleeding victims.

People from the bus ``were moaning and screaming,″ Krause said. ``I saw legs and twisted bodies.″

The Fremont neighborhood below is one of Seattle’s most popular residential, shopping and sightseeing areas.

The Aurora Bridge, a four-lane highway that is one of Seattle’s busiest thoroughfares, rises hundreds of feet above the ship canal at the west end of Lake Union. The accident was near where the bridge returns to ground level on the north side.

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