SEATTLE (AP) — A Sound Transit bus driver is at fault for a crash that killed two people in Kirkland last year, the Washington State Patrol said Wednesday.
The law enforcement agency said it had concluded its investigation of the May 2013 collision. Its report faulted Aleksandr Rukhlin, 54, who investigators said ran a red light as he exited Interstate 405. At the intersection, the bus hit an SUV carrying three people. The agency is recommending criminal charges against the driver.
A couple in the SUV — Robert Rotta, 76, and his wife, Elizabeth Rotta, 75 — died. Their son was also hurt.
“Detectives determined that neither vehicle, nor environmental factors, contributed to the cause of the crash,” the agency said in release Wednesday.
Rider of the bus at the time also told detectives that despite their pleas, Rukhlin continued driving after the collision. He drove three-quarters of a mile before stopping.
“Despite his failure to immediately stop and render assistance, Rukhlin was otherwise cooperative throughout the investigation and agreed to perform a voluntary drug influence evaluation, as well as a subsequent voluntary blood test. Both the evaluation and blood test results were negative for any signs of drug or alcohol impairment,” the agency said.
In an interview with The Seattle Times after the crash, Rukhlin said the brakes failed and he was unable to avoid hitting the SUV.
“I just pushed on the pedal. There was nothing, I couldn’t stop the bus. The air pressure was fine — I don’t know why it didn’t work,” Rukhlin said.
Troopers are recommending charges of two counts of vehicular homicide, one count of vehicular assault and one count of hit-and-run with death.
The King County Prosecutor’s office is reviewing the charge recommendations and a decision is expected in the next couple of weeks, spokesman Dan Donohoe said.
Rukhlin has been on unpaid leave since the accident, Sound Transit spokesman Bruce Gray said.
Sound Transit service in Snohomish County is contracted with Community Transit. And Community Transit contracts with the company First Transit for drivers, which is where Rukhlin is employed.
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