VIDEO: ValleyRide releases clip showing view from bus during Boise crash

kmoeller@idahostatesman.comFebruary 17, 2014 

ValleyRide released video footage Monday from a public bus that crashed into the Idaho Power building in Downtown Boise on Jan. 6.

There were as many as six cameras on the bus, but ValleyRide officials refused to release all of the video, citing the Privacy Act of 1974 — which prohibits disclosure of records that contain personally identifiable information.

"We have determined that all but one of the videos requested contain personally identifiable information about the riders on the VRT buses and the disclosure would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of privacy," ValleyRide spokesman Mark Carnopis said Monday via email. "The only camera that does not show a bus rider is the dashboard camera, which captures video in front of the bus."

Nine people were aboard the bus, including the driver. One woman, Kathleen Livingston, who was seated in the first seat on the right side of the bus, was taken to the hospital after the 6:30 a.m. crash. She suffered injury to her lower back, according to the Idaho Transportation Department's crash report.

The 59-year-old bus driver, Fatangia Moala, told police at the scene that the brakes failed. But the investigation turned up no sign of brake failure, Carnopis said. Idaho State Police, the agency that investigated the crash, found that telemetry showed the brakes weren't applied during the crash, and the bus sped up from 16 mph to 20 mph during the crash.

The bus was traveling north on South 13th Street at Grove Street, when it suddenly veered off course — jumping the curb and crashing through at least one traffic sign post, five trees and two light poles in the Idaho Power parking lot. The bus continued on across Main Street and slammed into a pillar at the base of the nine-story office building.

About a week and a half after the crash, police said Moala was charged with negligent driving. Investigators said they had evidence that the driver was drowsy before the crash. It appeared his eyes were closed before the crash, police said. The video clip released Monday is a dash camera facing out the front windshield.

An investigator who reviewed all the video from the bus said in the crash report that the bus driver appeared to be very drowsy and closing his eyes for short periods of time before the crash.

"The driver would close his eyes for a few seconds at a time, open eyes back up, rub his eyes with his hand, rub his face and forehead with his hand, and close his eyes again," the ITD report says. "It also appeared that the driver had nodded off (eyes closed) while going north on 13th from the time he passed across Front until right before he came upon the pickup truck in front of him."

Negligent driving is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of a $300 fine and up to six months in jail.

Moala has pleaded not guilty to the charge. His next court date is 9:45 a.m. Feb. 24 and a jury trial has been set for March 20.

Fatangia Moala, also known as "Fatongia" and "Frank," had three driving-related citations over the past decade, including motor carrier rules violation and failure to wear a safety restraint (2006), turning left-failure to yield right-of-way (2005), and failure to wear a safety restraint (2005), according to online court records. He had three driving-related citations in the 1990s.

ValleyRide doesn't employ its bus drivers. It contracts with Illinois-based Veolia Transportation. Valerie Michael, Veolia's director of communications, declined to say Monday how long Moala had worked for the company or if he is still employed.

Idaho Power officials did not immediately respond to a request for information about the cost of repairing the damage to their headquarters building. Initial reports from the company were that the bus hit a decorative pillar, not one of the weight-bearing columns, so the structural integrity of the building was not believed to have been compromised.

Also damaged in the crash was a $400 Schwinn bicycle that was on a rack on the front of the bus.

Katy Moeller: 377-6413

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