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Two killed in Kirkland bus crash; Sound Transit driver claims brake failure

Investigators are trying to figure out why a Sound Transit bus plowed into an SUV Monday night, killing two people, and then kept going. (KING 5 image)

Sound Transit said it regularly conducts maintenance and inspections while investigators are trying to figure out why a bus plowed into an SUV Monday night, killing two people, and then kept going.

“All of our buses go through a pretty detailed pre-trip inspection before they ever leave the yard every day,” said Sound Transit spokesperson Bruce Gray.

The bus traveled about two miles after the crash as the it exited Interstate 405 at 128th Street around 9:30 p.m. in Kirkland near the Totem Lake Transit Center. The 2010 Ford Escape was driving east on the Northeast 128th Street overpass when the bus hit it after running a red light.

Trooper Julie Judson said several passengers on the bus called 911 to report that it had been in at least one collision and wasn’t stopping.

The bus driver told troopers his brakes weren’t working, and couldn’t stop sooner.

“We will go through and check all of the safety equipment,” said Judson. “Clearly in this instance the brakes will be thoroughly examined as will the rest of the vehicle.”

Gray said, “in general, this is a very reliable bus.” He added that Sound Transit has about 55 of the 40 foot long Gillig brand buses in its fleet.

“It’s a real work horse for us and performs really well,” he said.

Robert Rotta, 76, died at the scene, while his wife, Elizabeth Rotta, 75, died at Harborview Medical Center a few hours later, according to Judson.

Their 51-year-old son Kendall Rotta, the driver, was seriously injured and also transported to Harborview Medical Center for treatment.

There were about 35 passengers on the bus at the time.

According to Judson, the driver, Aleksandr Rukhlin, 54, of Everett, was not injured. He showed no signs of drug or alcohol impairment, but was given a blood test as standard procedure for an accident investigation.

“The driver has been working with this company for about nine months and has a spotless record,” said Gray.

Rukhlin is on paid administration leave pending the results of the investigation.

“We’re also trying to establish whether there are any more vehicles involved,” said Judson. “There were some potential reports that possibly some vehicles within the city before the bus got onto I-405, may have been struck.”

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The Associated Press and KIRO Radio’s Val Stouffer contributed to this report.

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