Rider Shoots Driver; 2 Dead, Dozens Hurt -- Bus Careens Off Bridge -- Murder-Suicide A Possibility
Seattle Times Staff
A gunman shot the driver of a downtown-bound Metro bus yesterday afternoon, sending the bus on a mad lunge across oncoming traffic and off the Aurora Bridge. The bus crashed into an apartment building before landing in its front yard more than 50 feet below the bridge deck.
The driver, 44-year-old Mark F. McLaughlin, who had been shot in the arm, died after being thrown out the bus windshield and onto the apartment roof. A second person was pronounced dead, reportedly with a gunshot wound to the head, at Harborview Medical Center.
Homicide detectives were saying last night that the passenger who died may have been the shooter, said police spokeswoman Christie-Lynne Bonner. Police are investigating the possibility that the shooting was a murder-suicide.
An additional 29 victims, many of them helped by onlookers who sprinted to the accident scene, were being treated in seven area hospitals, according to police and fire officials. Individual totals released by the hospitals, however, added up to as many as 33 injured plus the two dead.
Police are seeking other possible passengers who may have left the scene. They are also looking for someone who they believe videotaped the incident.
Officers found two handguns. One was located on the body of the passenger who died, but Bonner said it had not been fired. Another handgun was found at the scene, though Bonner would not say exactly where.
Dozens of officers were working on the case, including a number who were dispatched to the various hospitals to interview the victims and to try to locate the suspect.
Witnesses reported seeing a large man, about 6 feet 2 inches tall and 200 pounds, wearing a tan jacket, tan cap and sunglasses, rise from his bus seat and fire several shots at the driver just as the southbound 359 express bus approached the Aurora Bridge about 3:10 p.m.
"I saw a guy up at the front of the bus. I didn't see where he came from," said William Brimeyer, 23, a North Seattle resident who was on his way to his job as a security worker in downtown Seattle.
"Then I heard the shots. Then all I remember is falling."
Brimeyer described the weapon as a small revolver.
Rick Walsh, general manager for Metro, said the shooter was sitting at the first seat next to the front door and across from the driver. The attack was unprovoked and there was no altercation, he said.
Drivers are trained to recognize possible problems, but the bus's alarm button and two-way radio were not engaged.
The 60-foot-long articulated bus, so long it bends in the middle like an accordion, suddenly veered into the northbound lane, clipping a van. Taking out two sections of guardrail, the bus flew into a two-story apartment building beneath the east side of the bridge. It then landed upright on North 36th Street beneath the Fremont Troll.
"It was kind of like a roller coaster," said Laethan Wene, 24, from Shoreline, who sat at the back of the bus on his way to a writers festival at Seattle Center. "I was seeing glass fly all over the place, and the bus driver had the emergency doors open."
There were no reported injuries among apartment residents, bystanders or other travelers in the path of the bus. The driver of the van hit by the bus was also uninjured.
In the rushed moments and hours that followed, onlookers became rescuers. And as the sunny afternoon gave way to night and even a passing hailstorm, an accident investigation turned into a homicide investigation.
Numerous details - the shooter's identity or motive, the exact sequence of events - remained vague into the evening.
Police interviews were made difficult by many of the survivors' conditions, said Seattle police Sgt. D.E. MacMillan.
"With neck braces and whatnot, it has been difficult," he said at Providence Medical Center. "But we have been able to piece together what happened on the bus."
McLaughlin, of Lynnwood, was a transit operator for Metro, where he had worked as a bus driver since August 1979, according to Metro King County records. He was the divorced father of two sons: Brad, 16, and Joe, 14.
Thirteen victims, including one who died, were taken to Harborview Medical Center, said Tina Mankowski, spokeswoman for Harborview. One person was released, but several of the others were among the most seriously injured. Other victims were taken to the University of Washington Medical Center, Northwest Hospital, Swedish Medical Center/First Hill, Providence Hospital, Swedish Medical Center/Ballard and Virginia Mason Medical Center, said Elaine Kraft, spokeswoman for King County Executive Ron Sims.
Drivers are angry
The shooting has set safety-conscious drivers on edge, with drivers showing up at various stations around town, said Sims.
"Drivers are angry, kicking over stuff, which is what they do when they realize how vulnerable they are," Sims said.
Sims said it was too early to tell what they were going to do regarding possible added security.
The crash could have been much worse. The bus was traveling in the relatively calm traffic of a holiday. It went off the low point of a bridge that towers 175 feet above the Ship Canal. A building in effect broke its fall.
The bus plunged right toward Lya Badgley as it crashed through the concrete and steel railing of the Aurora Bridge. At the time, she was looking out the window of her kitchen, just south of the apartment building where the bus landed, and her husband and infant child were in the next room.
`A wave of concrete'
"I saw a wave of concrete, it looked like water pouring down. And then the bus," said Badgley, 41. "Another hundred yards and we would have been toast."
David Hardesty was getting ready to take a shower in his second-floor apartment when the bus hit the roof nearly above him. He ran into the living room to find his front door ripped open. A fish tank in front of the window was undamaged; the porch was half gone.
Judy Jurji, 52, was sitting on the porch at 36th and Aurora when the bus passed overhead, breaking apart in midair.
"I saw the bus flying off the bridge," she said. "It was horribly quiet. . . . For a while it just seemed like an eternity of silence. I didn't see anybody come out."
Then, those that could flee the bus did. Those that couldn't began to cry out, "Help me, help me!" said Jurji.
Rescue procedures kicked in
Firefighters and police officers began to arrive two minutes after the first 911 call as King County's rescue procedures, revamped just six months ago, kicked into their first test.
Word of the accident spread across town via live television, radio and the word-of-mouth of elbow-to-elbow shoppers jamming downtown.
Robert Boling of Edmonds learned by cell phone.
"Your daughter was in a bus that just went off the Aurora Bridge," said Byron Juliano, a US West worker who had been passing by and called Boling.
"She's where? She's what?" said Boling.
"She was on the bus," said the caller, "but she's OK."
It proved to be more serious. Sixteen-year-old Brandy Boling, who had been headed downtown with some friends, was listed in serious condition at Virginia Mason Medical Center with internal injuries, including a lacerated liver and kidneys.
"That she was on a bus - a safe bus," Robert Boling said last night. "You're just not safe anywhere. You can't get away from it."
If robbery was a motive, it was futile, said Kraft. Fares go directly into fare boxes, which are extremely difficult to open, she said.
McLaughlin's death is the first work-related fatality of a Metro driver since the transit agency formed in 1973, said Kraft. A driver was also injured in a shooting in 1973 or 1974. In 1967, a driver was killed during a robbery on what was then called Seattle Transit. ------------------------------- Building under hit
Gunhshots aboard an articulated double bus wounded the driver causing he bus to plunge four stories from the Aurora Bridge. Police report 29 passengers were injured and two - including the driver - were killed in the crash.
1. Southbound bus (route 359) enters the Aurora Bridge at 3:15 p.m.. A passenger fires a gun, hitting the driver in the arm - causing him to lose control of the bus.
2. Bus swerves across northbound lanes, crashing through guardrails onto the roof of an apartment building below.
3. Bus falls backwards two more stories splitting into two pieces and crashing to the ground below. Several passengers tumble from the vehicle during the fall.
Published Correction Date: 12/01/98 - The Children Living With Mark Mclaughlin And Elise Crawford At Their Lynnwood Home Before His Death Friday Were Bradley, 16; Joel, 14; Dale, 11; And Lexi, 9. This Article Had An Incorrect Name. Mclaughlin Was The Metro Bus Driver Shot To Death By A Rider Friday.
Copyright (c) 1998 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.