Jan. 07--The wreckage following the harrowing crash Monday morning stretched about 100 yards, starting at 13th and Grove streets and ending at a snapped concrete-and-steel column at the base of the Idaho Power building.
A sign. Five trees. A metal post. Two light posts.
All lay bent, broken or entirely sheared off around the Idaho Power parking lot at 13th and Main after the 6:30 a.m. crash.
"It looks like a tornado blew through," one of the first police officers at the scene remarked, trying to make sense of what happened.
After hitting the building pillar, the bus came to rest several feet over a loading-dock tunnel at the base of Idaho Power's nine-story headquarters.
Nine people were aboard the bus, including the driver -- but only one suffered injuries serious enough to be checked out at a local hospital.
"Considering the trail of damage, it is very fortunate that no one was seriously injured," Sgt. Todd Ducharme said.
The 44-year-old woman transported to the hospital had a pre-existing injury that may have been aggravated by the crash, according to Valley Regional Transit authorities and police. Her injuries did not appear to be life-threatening, police said.
Investigators will determine if there was, in fact, a mechanical failure of some sort. But it could take several days and possibly a couple of weeks to determine what happened, said police spokeswoman Lynn Hightower. Idaho State Police are helping with the investigation.
Faced with slamming into the rear of cars stopped on 13th Street, the driver, whose name was not released, opted to veer through the parking lot to the east.
"He had to do some pretty quick thinking," said Mark Carnopis, a spokesman for Valley Regional Transit. "He took evasive action."
The driver had more than five years of bus driving experience. He is now on paid administrative leave.
Valley Regional Transit owns the public bus system that provides bus services in Ada and Canyon counties. In Boise, more than 20 buses circulate daily on 16 routes.
Valley Transit field supervisors who happened to be in a vehicle behind the bus Monday morning estimated the bus was going about 20 mph before it veered off course, Carnopis said.
The No. 4 Roosevelt bus, which is a loop from the Bench to Downtown, came off the Connector before the crash. It was headed north on 13th Street, just past the Mister Car Wash, when things went awry.
"It was a helluva ride," said Joseph Pacheco, a 47-year-old artist who was aboard the bus during the crash. He described the experience as both surreal and terrifying, and credited the bus driver for his actions to avoid hitting northbound cars stopped on 13th Street.
"The guy did a phenomenal job," Pacheco said. He said he was thrown to the floor during the crash but was not injured other than a bruised leg.
ESTIMATING COST OF CRASH DAMAGE
Replacing ValleyRide's 12-year-old compressed natural-gas bus will cost at least $200,000 for a used one, or as much as $444,000 for a new one, Carnopis said. Idaho Power didn't yet have an estimate on the cost of repairing the pillar.
Engineers determined that the column the bus hit was ornamental, not load-bearing, and it didn't affect the structural integrity of the building.
As a precaution, Idaho Power employees who work in the second-floor library, conference room and cafeteria area above the crash were relocated for the day. The bus was removed from the building at about 11 a.m., an Idaho Power spokeswoman said.
Officials at both Idaho Power and ValleyRide were pulling video -- from the building and from inside the bus (which had six cameras inside) -- to aid investigators.
BUS INSPECTIONS, PREVIOUS CRASHES
Valley Regional Transit buses are given a pre-trip inspection every morning, and an overall inspection is done every 3,000 miles. The brakes are physically inspected every 6,000 miles, the company said.
The buses average about 45,000 miles per year, so their overall condition is checked 15 times a year and brakes are inspected nine times a year, Carnopis said.