Safety concerns increase after construction accident on 520 bridge injures 8 on bus

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BELLEVUE — Construction on part of the 520 bridge has been suspended in the wake of Tuesday night’s crane accident involving a Metro bus.

The state is now investigating the contractors that were operating the crane that lost part of its load of pipes, causing a huge traffic sign to come crashing onto the bus.

“Something hit me in the head really hard,” says Whitney Lee, one of the passengers on that bus. “This huge object came through the very center of the bus. All the lights went off, everyone started screaming.”

A source with knowledge of the accident tells Q13 FOX that it’s highly unusual that traffic would be allowed to continue on the bridge during this type of work.

The Washington State Department of Transportation says they did close one lane. They released a statement that read, in part: "Last night`s incident was during a routine operation that has been performed safely and successfully many times by the contractor since October 2014."

That contractor, Flatiron Construction, suspended work Wednesday. They say they will cooperate with the state Department of Labor and Industries investigation into what went wrong.

But some people are now wondering about the risks with all the other construction projects around the Puget Sound.

“It’s probably something that doesn’t happen very often. But the fact that it did happen is a little alarming,” says Kati Ortiz.

Secretary of Transportation Lynn Peterson agrees, and is calling for a 30 day stand down. That means work on all state projects will stop before each shift, so crews can review safety.

Engineers will also do walk-throughs on all job sites, making sure contractors are meeting safety expectations.

Even though those standards won’t be mandatory for private projects, Ortiz hopes this accident forces all crews to make safety their top priority.

“Because there is so much construction going on and there are so many moving parts and so many dangerous parts, I definitely think it should be something that’s taken very seriously.”

As for Whitney, she’s counting her blessings that she made it safely off the bus. She’s not sure she’s going to take the chance getting on again.

“I don`t want to go on 520 anymore. Not after that.”

Eight people on the bus were injured in the accident, but only one remained hospitalized Wednesday night.

Even though the bus windshield was smashed and there was a lot of damage to the front of the bus, the driver was OK. He was able to get out and help his passengers out. Many people are calling him a hero for his quick actions.

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1 Comment

  • BearTex3

    While this was an unfortunate event that after reading a couple different stories and as someone who is working on the highways and interstates around the sound, this does appear to be a freak accident. Thankfully no one was critically injured and yes it was scary for the bus riders and even the crane operator. I can understand why they DOT does not close the bridge, because it is a main way for traffic. Just like all the other main ways of road where traffic passes. I work out on I-5 and let me tell you the work crews out there grinding up the road to make it smooth dont scare me as much as the idiots out there driving by the construction. There is no reason for drivers to drive right next to the work area. But yet the do. So while this was an accident maybe people out there driving may get the idea that driving right next to the construction area is not a good idea. Accidents do happen. Now I am not sure if there was room for the bus driver to get all the way over, but advice to those driving, if there is room for you to get all the way over then do it. You never know when an accident will happen. And yes if you are driving on I-5 and there are closed lanes, the WSP will not pull you over for driving in the HOV lane through the construction. But they will give you a major ticket if you are caught driving around the barrels and an even bigger one if you are seen hitting a barrel. And yes if you hit one of those plastic barrels it will rip your mirror off (We usually pick up about a dozen a night from cars driving to close to the construction area) and if you hit one head on it will damage your car and the company is not held responsible, because you are supposed to get over anyways and that is what will be asked by WSP when you report it. And if you hit a barrel and it hits another vehicle you are responsible. Also those big trucks out there protecting the workers and have their bright yellow strobes on and the flashing arrow boards are built to protect the workers on the road, not the idiots who run into the back of them. So not only if you hit them at high speed will it destroy your car it may destroy you. 20k pounds of solid truck that dont move when they are hit is about like hitting a concrete wall. And also at any given time a tractor trailer can pull out of the road closure at any moment and a driver can run into it and being dumb by not paying attention or giving the workers a little room to work can certainly ruin your day or night. And your family might get a phone call they dont want.