Lawyer: Driver helpless to stop runaway San Francisco bus

Injured people are tended to by paramedics near Union Square on Friday. A double-decker tour bus crashed into multiple vehicles and pedestrians. (AP Photo/Josh Edelson)

Injured people are tended to by paramedics near Union Square on Friday. A double-decker tour bus crashed into multiple vehicles and pedestrians. (AP Photo/Josh Edelson)

A lawyer representing the driver of the double-decker tourist bus that careened out-of-control through downtown San Francisco recounted a harrowing tale Tuesday of a “catastrophic” mechanical failure that left 20 people injured but — miraculously, authorities say — no one dead.

San Francisco lawyer Robert Cartwright said he has been hired to represent bus driver Kenneth Malvar, 52, who was behind the wheel of a tour bus that crashed Friday afternoon in San Francisco’s popular Union Square shopping district.

Cartwright said Malvar gave a brief account from his hospital bed Tuesday.

Cartwright said Malvar was driving through an intersection when he heard an explosion underneath the bus. After the explosion, the bus began to pick up speed and race downhill toward the congested Union Square. Malvar said the brake pedals didn’t work and the accelerator pedal felt “floppy.” Malvar said the emergency brake didn’t slow the bus and he was unable to get the vehicle out of drive or even turn off the engine as it careened toward pedestrians. The bus ran over a bicyclist and injured five seriously, including Malvar. Cartwright said Malvar is expected to recover from injuries, which include broken ribs and an ankle

“It was extremely harrowing, but he kept his wits about him,” Cartwright said. Cartwright said Malvar tried to slow the bus by clipping parked cars and large construction containers filled with water serving as buffers to no avail. That’s when he decided to drive the bus into scaffolding at a construction site that will soon turn into an Apple retail store.

“He tried everything,” Cartwright said. “He was powerless to stop the bus.”

San Francisco Police Sgt. Michael Andraychak said Tuesday the accident is still under investigation. The bus is owned by the company City Sightseeing and Cartwright said Malvar has worked for the tour group without incident since 2005.

Christian Watts, the chief executive of City Sightseeing, didn’t return calls Tuesday. On Monday, Watts said that company mechanics last inspected the bus on Oct. 25.

The California Public Utilities Commission said Monday that the bus o appears not to have been registered with the agency as required. The CPUC maintains a list of all tour vehicles that carry more than 11 passengers in California. The CPUC said all vehicles registered with it must pass California Highway Patrol inspections.

CPUC spokeswoman Constance Gordon said “our preliminary information on the accident is that the license plate of the bus involved in Friday’s crash does not appear to match the vehicle the CPUC has on file, nor did City Sightseeing officially notify the CPUC that it added the bus that was involved in the crash to its operations, which it is required to do.”

Neither Watts nor the company responded to inquiries Monday or Tuesday about the CPUC’s claims.

Apple StoreCity Sightseeingdouble-decker tourist busKenneth MalvarRobert CartwrightTour busTransitUnion Square

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

A health care worker receives one of the first COVID-19 vaccine doses at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital on Tuesday Dec. 15, 2020. (Courtesy SFgov)
SF to open three large sites for COVID-19 vaccinations

Breed: ‘We need more doses. We are asking for more doses’

Tongo Eisen-Martin, a Bernal Heights resident, named San Francisco’s eighth poet laureate. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Tongo Eisen-Martin becomes San Francisco’s eighth poet laureate

Bernal Heights resident Tongo Eisen-Martin has become San Francisco’s eighth poet laureate.… Continue reading

Homeless people's tents can be seen on Golden Gate Avenue in the Tenderloin on Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 16, 2020. (Photo by Ekevara Kitpowsong/S.F. Examiner)
Statewide business tax could bring new funds to combat homelessness

San Francisco could get more than $100 million a year for housing, rental assistance, shelter beds

The Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco (a mural by artist Jamie Treacy is pictued) has a lineup of free online programming including activities for youngsters scheduled for Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 18. (Courtesy Demetri Broxton/Museum of the African Diaspora)
Stanford, Museum of the African Diaspora host MLK Day activities

Online offerings include films, music, discussion

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi presides the US House of Representatives vote on the impeachment of US President Donald Trump at the US Capitol, January 13, 2021, in Washington, DC. - The Democrat-controlled US House of Representatives on January 13 opened debate on a historic second impeachment of President Donald Trump over his supporters' attack of the Capitol that left five dead. (SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)
House votes 232-197 to impeach Trump a second time

Focus shifts to Senate, where McConnell has signaled he may not stand by president

Most Read