Empty city bus rolls over sidewalk; none injured

Dan Haugen

Water cascaded down Fourth Street Southeast on Wednesday morning as a dull red fire hydrant lay among broken tree branches and bent sign posts, several feet from its base near 15th Avenue Southeast.

Reared up on the curb next to the debris – where students would typically be waiting for their ride – was a Metro Transit bus.

The bus was empty and unattended when it rolled onto the sidewalk, over a fire hydrant and through a tree at approximately 8:30 a.m. The bus eventually ended up against a light post 40 feet from where it started.

Metro Transit customer service director Bob Gibbons said the driver had left the bus to use the McDonald’s restroom.

“The bus doesn’t have a park (gear) like cars do,” Gibbons said. “It has drive, neutral and reverse. The course of action would be to put the bus in neutral and set the parking brake.”

The bus was not significantly damaged and was driven to a Metro Transit maintenance garage to be inspected.

“We don’t know what happened,” Gibbons said. “We’re having the bus looked at to see if it was a mechanical or an operator thing.”

The bus driver was pulled from duty and taken to a clinic for drug and alcohol tests, which is standard procedure after all Metro Transit accidents and is no indication of wrongdoing by the driver, Gibbons said.

The incident made for good gossip at The Purple Onion Cafe just down the block, although nobody there seemed to have seen it happen.

There were eyewitnesses, however. Jill Gooselaw, a loan assistant at EastBank whose office window faces the bus stop, said she was at her desk when she heard a deep rumbling.

“It sounded like one of those Bobcats that they use to clear off the snow, so at first I didn’t think much of it,” she said.

Then, to the sound of snapping tree branches, she saw two girls look back and jump out of the way.

“It wasn’t moving fast,” she said.

A Minneapolis police spokesman said nobody was injured in the accident. City workers were called out to replace the broken hydrant and street signs, and salt the freezing runoff.

Dan Haugen welcomes comments at [email protected]