Five people were injured in San Francisco Wednesday when an AC Transit bus rammed into another AC Transit bus, crashed into an occupied vehicle, careened onto a sidewalk, and stopped between a high-rise building and some scaffolding, "narrowly missing" traffic light poles, police said.
The bus was traveling northbound near Fremont and Folsom streets at the time of the crash, which was reported around 9:25 a.m., Officer Robert Rueca told reporters.
The five people who were sent to area hospitals include the drivers of both buses, a bus passenger and a passenger in a private vehicle, according to AC Transit spokesman Robert Lyles.
"We wanted to transport them as quickly as possible, knowing that the traffic in the area was going to get heavy and that their health was our biggest concern," Rueca said.
One of the five victims appears to have taken themselves to the hospital at some point after the collision, Lyles said.
Passengers aboard the bus said the entire experience lasted between 15 and 20 seconds, but it felt like an eternity.
"We were crossing Folsom, and we felt a couple of sharp jolts and I thought maybe they were pumping their brakes," said Dave Zemke. "But then we hit something really big."
That big bump was another bus. The green vehicle only came to a stop after hitting the scaffolding of a building on the 200 block of Fremont Street.
A commuter seated near the front of the bus said the driver appeared to be on the verge of passing out.
The driver "started coming down" the hill, Carrie Murphy said, "and you know how the buses line up, and there’s like a passing lane and she tried to ask one of the other bus drivers to let her in because she wasn’t feeling well.”
Rueca said that the bus didn't hit any pedestrians on the 200 block of Fremont Street, otherwise the crash could have been much worse.
“There was a gentleman who I was talking to that said he was walking down the sidewalk, looked back, saw the bus approaching and jumped into a planter and actually watched as the bus went over!" Zemke said.
Traffic in downtown San Francisco was "heavily impacted" for several hours because the buses couldn't be moved until police officers had processed the scene of the collision, said Rueca.
For hours after the crash, crews removed the scaffolding above the bus one piece and pipe at a time. Two tow trucks were then needed to hoist the bus from the pavement.
The crash closed the Fremont/Folsom Street and Harrison Street off-ramps from Interstate 80, but both have since reopened, Rueca said. As of around 4 p.m., the only remaining street closure was on the section of Fremont Street between Folsom and Howard streets.
Rueca said it is too early to comment on the cause of the crash. An investigation is ongoing.
AC Transit buses typically traverse the city "safely," he said. "This is a rare occurrence."
Lyles said AC Transit has collected video from the involved buses and is checking to see if any San Francisco city buses in the area have video that might be helpful.
"We're very grateful that the injuries were limited, and that there weren't more bystanders or pedestrians involved in this," Lyles said. "We are investing considerable energy and effort into trying to ascertain exactly what happened."
Lyles said that Fremont Street was cleared fairly quickly and buses on the popular Transbay bus line were able to regain access to the San Francisco terminal by around 1 p.m.