Attorney Robert E. Cartwright, Jr. responds to the California Highway Patrol’s latest inspection report made available this past week. The report documents continuing failure by City Sightseeing to correct serious safety issues related to their busses. In particular, corroded and kinked brake lines, worn brakes, air compression leaks and other maintenance issues were noted. This comes after a previous inspection following the November crash which resulted in a number of significant safety issues being documented and a directive being issued to the company to correct the violations.
The CHP and SFPD previously issued a preliminary report of their inspection of the crashed bus where they found no mechanical failure leading to the crash. Prior to the release of that report they held a joint press conference where they attributed the crash to driver error.
Cartwright, at that time, disputed the CHP findings. He then filed a Claim against both agencies for defamation and destruction of evidence. Cartwright points out that the investigation of the crashed vehicle was not handled properly. He points out that they downloaded the black box, which shows that the throttle was fully open for some five blocks prior to impact. CHP argues this is evidence that the driver confused the gas with the brake pedal for five blocks without ever lifting his foot off of the pedal, and without ever placing his foot on the brake. Cartwright argues that this driver, a Marine, with fifteen years’ experience driving a bus did not do that, and is sure he tried to apply the brakes after the gas was stuck open. The black box data is totally consistent with the bus driver’s statement that the throttle was stuck wide open. The black box does not record whether a foot is on the gas pedal or whether the throttle is simply stuck in the “on” position. Cartwright argues that no one would keep their foot on the gas on a runaway bus for five blocks without ever lifting off the pedal even once.
The inspection also found no defects with the Brakes. Cartwright responds that, unfortunately, the report does not prove that there was no problem with the brakes, because they were improperly handled. He points out that, according to the CHP, the brakes were too badly damaged in the crash to test in the damaged bus. Accordingly, the damaged brake components were removed from the crashed bus, repaired to their pre-accident condition, and then re-installed into an exemplar bus, and then tested. Low and behold, the fully repaired and re-installed brakes appeared to work properly when tested after repair and replacement. Cartwright contends that this was not a true forensic exam that was capable of determining failure of the brake system at the time of the crash. “Of course they worked after they were fixed” says Cartwright.
Mr. Cartwright clears the air with regards to the SFPD’s news conference which falsely blamed the driver for the accident, when there was no evidence to support those accusations. The bus driver, Mr. Cartwright, and his team of attorneys and investigators are adamant that the true cause of the bus crash was a mechanical failure. He states that to be unable to determine the cause of a crash or the mechanical failure is one thing, but to then accuse a veteran driver of causing the crash is another. Cartwright states, “the driver was a true hero, acting with grace under the stress of a runaway tour bus in crowded San Francisco. He saved a lot of lives. It could have been much worse if he had not kept his cool, and maneuvered the bus into scaffolding, which softened the impact. He did not mistake the gas for the brake, and has offered to take a lie detector test, which the CHP has declined to do. In their haste to “blame someone” they have falsely blamed the driver and damaged his reputation based on incompetent evidence.
Moreover, we firmly believe that SFPD and CHP are simply placing blame on the driver as a scapegoat due to their incompetent examination of the bus. The SFPD and CHP have also compromised all of the injured victims’ ability to find the true cause of the accident because they have destroyed the evidence from the crashed bus by removing brake and throttle components and repairing them. In this process, the SFPD and CHP have completely defamed the driver’s character and tarnished his reputation, causing detrimental effects to his livelihood. Without any evidence to support driver error, the SFPD and CHP decided to slander the driver’s name instead of determining what truly caused this horrific event which left numerous people in critical condition.
As The Cartwright Law Firm indicated in the very beginning, a failure in the air compressor system caused the brakes to fail and the engine throttle to be stuck accelerating. Both the brake pedal and gas pedal were floppy and nonresponsive. The fact that there was no redundancy or backup braking system once the air compressor failed indicates a design defect. We will keep you updated as our investigation into the matter uncovers more information.