No sign of brake failure in bus that crashed into Idaho Power headquarters

New video and an investigative report shed more light on the January accident in Downtown Boise.

kmoeller@idahostatesman.comFebruary 18, 2014 

A decorative pillar is still missing from Idaho Power’s Downtown Boise headquarters, a reminder of the ValleyRide bus that hurtled into the building on Jan. 6.

New video released Monday from a front-facing dashboard camera shows what the bus driver and passengers experienced leading up to that crash as the bus careered through the Idaho Power parking lot.

The driver, Fatangia Moala, 59, has pleaded not guilty to negligent driving — a violation of Boise city code. The misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of a $300 fine and up to six months in jail.

According to a crash report obtained from the Idaho Transportation Department, the bus was traveling north on South 13th Street shortly before 6:30 a.m. when, at Grove Street, it veered right to avoid a pickup truck ahead of it. The bus jumped the curb and crashed through at least one traffic sign post, five trees and two light poles in the Idaho Power parking lot. The bus continued across Main Street and slammed into a pillar at the base of the nine-story office building. A passenger’s $400 Schwinn bicycle attached to the front of the bus was also damaged.

Nine people were aboard the bus, including the driver. One woman — Kathleen Livingston, 45, who was seated in the first seat on the right side of the bus — was taken to the hospital with an injury to her lower back, according to the ITD report.

Moala told police at the scene that the brakes failed, but the investigation turned up no sign of brake failure. Idaho State Police, the agency that reviewed the crash, found that telemetry showed the brakes weren't applied, and the bus sped up from 16 mph to 20 mph during the crash.

The 27-second video from the ValleyRide camera starts with the bus approaching the pickup truck. As it swerves into the parking lot, a voice — Moala’s, according to the ITD report — shouts, “Oh s--t! Oh s--t!” The bus avoids several other parked vehicles while crashing through the lot.

There were as many as six cameras on the bus, but ValleyRide officials refused to release all of the video, saying privacy law prevented them from providing video that showed the bus’ passengers.

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 closed his eyes for short periods of time before the crash.

“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,” the investigator wrote in the ITD report.

Without access to more of ValleyRide’s video, it wasn’t possible Monday to independently verify the investigator’s claims.

Moala was charged about two weeks after the crash. His next court date — a pretrial — is 9:45 a.m. Feb. 24 and a jury trial has been set for March 20.

Also listed in online court records as Fatongia or Frank Moala, he had three driving-related citations over the past decade, including failing to wear a safety restraint and failing to yield, and another three 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 respond Monday to a request 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.

Katy Moeller: 377-6413

Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service