Driver of Runaway Union Square Tour Bus Stepped on Gas, Not Brakes: Police - NBC Bay Area
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Driver of Runaway Union Square Tour Bus Stepped on Gas, Not Brakes: Police

Previously, officials said the double-decker bus that slammed into scaffolding at a Union Square construction site apparently suffered mechanical failure.

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    A runaway tour bus crashed into a construction site at San Francisco's Union Square in November because the driver stepped on the gas instead of the brake while he was driving 45 mph, according to police. Chuck Coppola reports. (Published Wednesday, March 23, 2016)

    A runaway tour bus crashed into a construction site at San Francisco's Union Square in November because the driver stepped on the gas instead of the brake while he was driving 45 mph, according to police.

    That announcement came Wednesday, as a result of a four-month police investigation. And it contradicted what the driver had originally said: The double-decker bus slammed into scaffolding at a Union Square construction site on Nov. 13, 2015 because of some sort of mechanical failure. 

    Police cited the driver, Kenneth Malvar, 53, for driving at an unsafe speed.

    However, Malvar's attorney, Robert Cartwright, disputed the findings, saying the bus driver is a former U.S. Marine who has enough experience behind the wheel to know the difference between the accelerator and the brake.

    "They said I don't know my pedals," Malvar said. "That’s absurd. I know the difference."
     
    According to Cartwright, Malvar stepped on the brake, but it failed.
     
    "What really happened here has not yet been determined,'' the attorney said. "My client insists that he put his foot on the brake.'"

    Malvar told his attorney that he heard a pop just before he claims the brakes went out. However, investigators say they looked closely at the compressor, which supplies brake pressure.

    "That system was looked at and we found no pre-existing mechanical defects," said California Highway Patrol officer Dan Hill.

    Speaking to the public Wednesday, Malvas apologized to the people who were injured, but riterated his innocence.

    "For those who were injured, I’m disappointed that investigators have not found the cause of the accident," said Malvar, who has gone through multiple surgeries.

    Police disagree.

    "He likely panicked and mistook the accelerator for the ... brake," said Ann Mannix with the San Francico Police Department's traffic bureau.

    There was evidence that the throttle had been pressed, but not the brake, police Sgt. Kevin Edison said. Police also say a data recorder aboard the bus confirmed that it was speeding.
     
    "A lot of times you talk to witnesses: They believe they did something when you have proof to show that didn't happen,'' said Edison, who is a traffic collision investigator for the San Francisco Police Department.

    Cartwright said, however, that investigators took the bus apart as part of their review, making it impossible for outside experts to conduct their own evaluation of its parts.

    When it careened out of control, the bus ended up striking pedestrians, a bicyclist and and several cars. Nearly 20 were injured. Malvar was one of those injured and is currently in a wheelchair, his attorney said.

    The bus involved in the Nov. crash had been modified into a double decker to carry sightseeing passengers, investigators said. However, the bus company was not registered with the California Public Utilities Commission and had not been inspected by the CHP.

    According to the California, Highway Patrol, the tour company has fixed more than 60 violations that were uncovered in the wake of the crash.

    Next month, a Senate committee will discuss whether each tour bus that’s older than two years — that's been modified into a double-decker or not — should be inspected upon entry and every six months after that.

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