Driver, passenger still critical after RIPTA bus crash in Warwick

Photos: Aftermath of RIPTA bus crash into Warwick businesses »

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — A RIPTA driver and one of his passengers remain in critical condition after a bus crashed into a Warwick building Monday night.

Crews returned to Post Road Tuesday to tow the bus from the scene as police resumed their investigation.

According to police, the bus collided with a pole in the area of Salt Pond Road just after 7 p.m. then careened off the roadway and slammed into the building.

The driver, identified as Richard Avedisian, and a passenger, identified as Kyle Adams, were transported to Rhode Island Hospital with serious injuries. As of Tuesday afternoon, police said both were still in critical condition.

Photos: Aftermath of RIPTA bus crash into Warwick businesses »
Photos: Aftermath of RIPTA bus crash into Warwick businesses »

A second passenger, 39-year-old Paulino Cortez, was treated for minor injuries at the hospital and released. Police said a third passenger left the scene before officers arrived, whom police later interviewed and determined he was not injured in the crash.

Avedisian, 51, of North Kingstown, has been with RIPTA for about 30 years, the agency said.

Investigators believe Avedisian may have suffered a medical emergency prior to the crash. At this time, police said neither speed nor alcohol appear to be a factor.

Police said Adams, 21, attempted to render aid to the driver after the bus struck the pole since it appeared he was suffering from some type of medical episode.

Eyewitnesses said the bus cut across traffic, jumped a curb and plowed through a snowbank before slamming into the building, which houses The Driver’s Seat automotive store and a paintball shop.

“It felt so surreal, so much flashed in front of my eyes in a matter of seconds, but I only had a second just to dive and save my life,” recalled Manuel Rosario, who was working at The Driver’s Seat at the time. “I really believed when I jumped I was kind of already gone.”

When police called George Zervas Monday night, the owner of RI Paintball & Airsoft rushed to his business.

“As I walked around the corner, that’s when I saw the back of the bus hanging out of the building,” he recalled. “I just kind of paused, froze, didn’t know what to say.”

There doesn’t appear to be as much damage to Zervas’ side of the building, but the building inspector told him it will have to come down.

“They said it’s not salvageable,” said Zervas. “15 years of my life just got flushed down the toilet.”

Amanda Lansing said she was driving right behind the bus and stopped to help after the crash.

“We ran in, there was somebody on the floor, we found somebody trapped behind the driver and the driver wasn’t responding to us yelling at him,” Lansing said Tuesday. “Its a lot to take in, to see them trapped in there like that. It would affect anyone that saw it.”

Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian joined us live in studio on Eyewitness News This Morning to give us more information about the crash.

Avedisian, who has no relation to the driver, is also the chairman of the RIPTA board. He said data from the bus will now be analyzed to help answer some of the big questions, such as how fast the bus was going and what caused the crash.

According to a spokesperson from RIPTA, all drivers are required to undergo a physical exam as part of the hiring process. After that, there is no physical exam requirement, though drivers are subject to random drug and alcohol screenings.

Cleanup continues at the scene, which Warwick police said was about a half-mile long.  Now that the bus has been removed, crews have boarded up the building and deemed it uninhabitable.

Anyone with information related to the crash or who may have witnessed the crash is asked to contact Officer Robert Hart of the Warwick Police Department Traffic Division at (401) 468-4345.

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