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TriMet, bus manufacturer settle lawsut over fatal collision

TriMet has announced the settlement of the civil lawsuit over the April 24, 2010, bus collision that killed two women in Old Town.

TriMet and bus manufacturer New Flyer will each pay the plaintiffs $2 million to resolve all of the plaintiffs’ claims. The plaintiffs will determine how the settlement will be disbursed among the parties.

“This was the worst tragedy in TriMet’s history and we hope this settlement brings a sense of closure for the families,” said TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane. “From this tragedy, TriMet has implemented safety improvements throughout the agency to reduce risks and hazards as we make safety our core value.”

Since the accident, TriMet has accepted responsibility for the driving of operator Sandi Day. The bus she was driving struck five people in a crosswalk, killing two women, Danielle Sale and Jenee Hammel.

Portland Police issued six misdemeanor traffic citations against Day for not yielding the right-of-way and for making an illegal left turn from Northwest Glisan onto Broadway. No criminal charges were brought against her.

Two TriMet internal panels and an independent external review all determined the collision was preventable. Day was terminated in August 2010. Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757 is challenging Day’s termination and the matter is awaiting arbitration. She was hired as an operator in October 2007.

The plaintiffs in the case are Ryan Hammel, Jamie Hammel, Erik Gittings and the estates of Danielle Sale and Jenee Hammel.

Following the collision, TriMet took several steps to improve safety. They inlcude:

• A comprehensive top-to-bottom review of TriMet operations led by a national safety expert, which resulted in the implemention of more than 100 recommendations.

• An evaluation all 79 bus routes, including every turn and lane change, and making changes to a handful of lines to provide more distance between lane changes and/or turns.

• The launching of an annual bus operator recertification training.

• The hiring a Safety and Security Executive who reports to the General Manager to move the agency toward a culture of safety and migrate the agency to the highest levels of safety performance in all areas of its business.

• The creation of a Safety and Service Excellence Task Force to further the work of the comprehensive safety review. TriMet implemented the 19 Task Force recommendations that also included creating a Safety Education Advisory Committee to help the agency partner with transportation and community stakeholders to improve safety education and outreach.

• Improved safety features on all new bus purchases.