Bus riders recount fatal crash

by: Monique Ming Laven Updated:

KIRKLAND, Wash. - One after another, after another we found people Tuesday night who had ridden the 535 bus out of Bellevue the night before.  One after another they declined to talk on camera.  

One woman said it was too soon after the couple, Bob and Betty Rotta, had been killed.  Another pointed to how shaken everyone was, and said there were a lot of people she didn't see on the same 9:15 p.m. run on this night.  She guessed they were too bothered by what happened Monday night. Everyone on the bus Monday- all 36 people -  saw the destroyed SUV.  

They discovered it carried the Rottas and their son, Kendall.  And they found out that it did take death for the couple, married for 55 years, to part.

No one wanted to give their name, but they did want to say something for the driver.  Four different people said they believed his story.  Aleksandr Rukhlin had driven for First Transit for about a year.

 The passengers who talked to KIRO7 said they all noticed the bus didn't even slow down as it exited I-405 and barrelled through the intersection at Totem Lake. Then there was the bang on impact.

 They said they kept on going.  One man said he saw the Rukhlin struggling for control of the 40-foot bus.  Other passengers ran to the front, concerned Rukhlin had had a medical emergency, but he told them he was okay.  It was the bus that had a problem. It finally came to rest more than a half mile from the crash scene. Some riders of the Tueday night 535 bus said they hope the buses are safe to ride, but they are a  little nervous. Martin Munguai of Community Transit, which operates the Sound Transit buses, says the company knows of no other problems with their fleet.  

"Since we don't know what happened to the bus last night," Munguai sais, "we're not doing anything special right now."  But he also admitted, " We haven't had a chance to check the bus at all."

Meanwhile, some people claiming to have been on the bus last night are sticking up for the driver.  Tara del Rosario posted on her facebook about the incident:"The bus's brakes gave out and he couldn't stop. It was just incredibly scary and surreal. I feel bad for him and the family. People are going to assume he was a crap driver instead of being sympathetic."

Community Transit says the bus involved in the accident will be inspected Thursday.  In the meantime, they say riders have no reason to feel unsafe.

As riders piled on the 535 Tuesday, they said they'd pay attention to the investigation.  Jacquelynn Loos didn't hesitate to board, but she also said she was had some trepidations "because if the brakes failed it should have been noticed beforehand."