WSP: Bus driver at fault in crash that killed 2 in Kirkland

OLYMPIA, Wash. - A year-long investigation by Washington State Patrol detectives has concluded that a Sound Transit bus driver who failed to stop for a red light triggered a collision that killed two people in Kirkland last May.

The investigation by WSP's Major Accident Investigation Team f0und that bus driver Aleksandr Rukhlin was heading north on Interstate 405 exiting the transit ramp to NE 128th Street with 25 passengers aboard just before the deadly crash.

Rukhlin slowed gradually from the highway speed of 60 mph as the bus exited the highway, traveled up the exit ramp, entered the intersection and slammed into an SUV at about 45 mph, the investigation found.

Passengers on the bus reported yelling at the driver to stop the bus, but Rukhlin continued going after the collision and headed back onto northbound I-405.

The bus travelled nearly three-quarters of a mile before passengers were able to intervene and assist in getting the bus stopped. It took one minute and 13 seconds for the bus to come to a complete stop after the collision occurred, the investigation found.

Despite his failure to immediately stop and render assistance, Rukhlin was otherwise cooperative throughout the investigation. A drug influence evaluation and blood test results were negative for any signs of drug or alcohol impairment.

The investigation found that the driver of the SUV, Kendall Rotta, began accelerating on 128th Street when his traffic light turned green. The SUV reached a speed of 23 mph before being struck by the bus.

Rotta suffered a concussion and a fractured rib as a result of the collision. The other two passengers in Rotta's vehicle, Robert Rotta and his wife Elizabeth Rotta, both died in the crash.

Several bus passengers also sustained minor injuries in the collision.

After the crash, Rukhlin told troopers that the brakes failed on the bus and that he was unable to stop, but detectives determined that no mechanical failures or environmental factors contributed to the crash.

The bus driver has been on unpaid administrative leave since the accident. Investigators have recommended that the King County prosecutor consider charging him with two counts of vehicular homicide, one count of vehicular assault and one count of hit and run with death.