WITNESSES NEAR NW Broadway and Glisan heard screams last Saturday, just before midnight. A TriMet bus turning left onto Broadway plowed through a crowd of five pedestrians, killing two young women and leaving a 22-year-old man in critical condition.
Danielle Sale, 22, and Jeneé Hammel, 26, left Harvey's Comedy Club in downtown Portland just before midnight Saturday night, waiting for the walk sign before stepping into the crosswalk on NW Broadway. Accounts say the two were laughing with their friends, 22-year-old Robert Erik Gittings and Hammel's brother and sister-in-law, Ryan and Jamie Hammel, as they walked across the street to their parked car.
On NW Glisan, route nine bus driver Sandi Day also had a green light. Initial investigation indicates she was not drunk. She was not speeding. She was not texting. But for some reason, she turned left directly into the five pedestrians. Emergency crews arrived on the scene and had to jack up the 17-ton bus to rescue Gittings, who is still in critical condition. Sale and Jeneé Hammel died at the scene. Sale was a nursing student in Vancouver, Washington. Hammel leaves behind a two-year-old son.
A candlelight vigil held at the scene of the crash on Monday night drew dozens of Portlanders. A makeshift memorial of flowers, candles, and photos remains on the curb.
The tragic deaths focus attention on TriMet's safety record: TriMet bus crashes have killed 32 Portlanders since 1988, TriMet records show. Ten of those fatalities were pedestrians. New hires at TriMet go through a six-week training, and then undergo a six-month trial period where they do monthly training in a classroom. Veteran bus and MAX drivers go through annual safety trainings. But still, fatal incidents like last weekend's occur.
"It's a tragic reminder of the importance of being vigilant and aware of your environment as you're driving a 40-foot bus," says TriMet spokeswoman Mary Fetsch.
Day, who was hired at TriMet in 2007, has been placed on paid administrative leave during the police investigation of the crash.
TriMet's March training bulletin, a newsletter sent out to all operators, focused on scanning for pedestrians, cyclists, and other cars before making a turn. "Turning is a risky maneuver," reads the notice, "Look left, look right, look left again."