Driver of King’s bus that flipped at I-5 exit says brakes failed

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The overturned bus hit the bent road sign before its tail end swung over the road, breaking the curb. (Photos by Janelle Retka)
The overturned bus hit the bent road sign before its tail end swung over the road, breaking the curb. (Photos by Janelle Retka)

The Washington State Patrol reported early Sunday that the driver of a King’s Schools bus that overturned on Highway 104 in Mountlake Terrace after exiting Interstate 5 southbound Saturday night said that the bus brakes failed prior to the accident that sent nine members of the King’s High School basketball team to the hospital late Saturday with minor injuries.

Shorelines Firefighters stand by the overturned bus with shattered glass from the windshield at their feet.
Shorelines firefighters stand by the overturned bus.

The accident blocked all four lanes of Highway 104/205th Street for several hours Saturday night through Sunday morning.

The victims’ injuries were minor and ranged from lacerations to a possible concussion, said Washington State Patrol Trooper Mark Francis. The nine teenage boys and 53-year-old bus driver from Everett, Deborah Clark, were sent to Northwest and Swedish Hospitals, according to Francis. The two coaches and the other students who were also on the bus but uninjured, were reunited safely with their families.

The team was traveling back to its Shoreline campus from a basketball game against Lynden Christian at Mount Vernon High School when the bus started having mechanical problems. King’s won the championship game 74-63, taking the District 1A title.

According to police, when the muffler of the school bus began dragging on I-5 south, the bus driver pulled the bus aside to secure it.

Later, as the bus exited the I-5 off-ramp that meets with SR 104, its brakes began to fail, according to the State Patrol report. Clark attempted to pull the bus to the side of the road, knocking down a “Wrong Way” sign and a guardrail, Francis said. Eventually, where the off ramp merges with SR 104, the bus hit a “Do Not Enter” sign and the curb and the tail end flipped over the curb, sending the bus across SR 104.

“The bus drifted off roadway into ditch, came back onto roadway, hit the curb and rolled onto its side,” a State Patrol news release said.

According to Francis, the bus did not collide with any other vehicles, and the passengers were able to exit the bus without assistance. He didn’t know how fast the bus was going.

The bus carried a team of 15 students and two coaches, according to a statement from the Shoreline private school’s parent organization published in Shoreline Area News.

The bus landed on the driver’s side, shattering the driver’s side windshield and leaving glass and automotive fluid on the road.
The bus landed on the driver’s side, shattering the driver’s side windshield and leaving glass and automotive fluid on the road.

The overturned school bus, marked “King’s Schools,” lay across the median and blocked the four-lane intersection of Highway 104/205th Street in Mountlake Terrace/Shoreline. The road remained closed for the majority of the night, as investigators gathered more information and evidence.

“When an incident involves a school district—when it involves kids—we want to be as thorough as possible,” Francis said.

The driver’s side windshield had collapsed and glass scattered across the road, but the bus lacked significant signs of damage otherwise. Once the scene quieted, firefighters spread absorbent on automotive fluids around the scene, and investigators began marking the asphalt with paint.

“These inspections take a long time,” said Mike Garner, a tow-truck driver from Hansen’s Towing & Transport in Everett, who had already been on the scene for nearly two hours, having arrived on the scene just after 10:30 p.m. “We stay out of the way and let the investigators do their job and then tell us to do ours. Then they stay out of our way.”

The tow would require a 40-ton truck, Garner said.

According to Francis, investigators anticipated remaining on the scene until at least 6 a.m. with the investigation ongoing for the next couple of weeks and months.

Follow-up investigations will include full testing of the brakes, equipment and lights of the bus, Francis explained, as well as determining details such as when the bus left Mount Vernon and road conditions.

— By Janelle Retka

 

 

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