Bus plunges over Aurora Bridge in 1998: Passenger recalls the crash

On Nov. 27, 1998, a Metro bus plunged off the Aurora Bridge in Seattle.

The bus driver, a passenger and the gunman who shot the driver and himself were killed. The video included with this story shows the crash scene from overhead and includes an interview with Laethan Wene, who survived the crash.

Wene was 24 when he was on bus No. 359. He was interviewed by KIRO 7 the night of the crash, and was interviewed again for a story on the 20th anniversary of the crash.

Below is a summary of the incident from HistoryLink.org and author Patrick McRoberts:

Metro bus plunges off Seattle's Aurora Bridge after driver is shot on November 27, 1998

In November 27, 1998, in the worst bus accident of Metro's 25-year history, the driver of a southbound Route 359 express bus is shot twice as the bus begins crossing the Aurora Bridge, which crosses the Lake Washington Ship Canal in Seattle. After shooting the driver, the shooter, Silas Garfield Cool, 43, originally of New Jersey, turns his .380 automatic handgun on himself. The bus drops 50 feet into the Fremont neighborhood, killing one passenger and injuring 32 others. The driver, Mark McLauglin, 44, passenger, Herman Liebelt, 69, and the shooter die.

The bus, a southbound Route 359 express, crossed two lanes of oncoming traffic and plunged 50 feet, landing first on the roof of an apartment building before tumbling to the ground. Had the bus traveled a few hundred yards farther it would have dropped more than 160 feet into the ship canal.

In addition to Cool and the driver, Mark McLauglin, 44, another passenger, Herman Liebelt, 69, died as a result of the accident. Thirty two passengers were injured.

No clear motive for the shooting could be determined, although there were signs that Cool had been experiencing emotional problems and had become severely withdrawn.

More news from KIRO 7


HistoryLink.org Sources:
Deborah Nelson, Christine Clarridge and J. Martin McOmber, "Bus Driver Killed by Shot to the Chest," The Seattle Times, November 30, 1998; "Bus Plunges from Aurora Bridge After Driver Shot; Two Dead," The Seattle Times, November 28, 1998.

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