Video shows moments leading up to RIPTA bus crash

WPRI/Kim Kalunian

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) has released surveillance footage of a bus crash in downtown Providence that sent five people to the hospital on Tuesday.

The videos obtained by Eyewitness News show the bus jump the curb on Francis Street and strike a light pole across the street from the Providence Place Mall. Story continues below video.

On Wednesday, police and the agency identified the driver as Mary Velez and city police are now investigating what caused her to crash.

RIPTA Board Chairman and Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian said Velez has been driving buses for 11 and a half years and has no driving violations on her record.

According to the crash report, police said Velez seemed normal and not distracted at the scene of the crash. She was taken to the hospital along with four of her passengers and later released.

Police said no one was seriously hurt. According to the police report, there were eight total passengers on the bus.

--PROVIDENCE--May 29, 2014: Mary Velez, is a driver for RIPTA. She was taking RIPTA bus #20 to the Elmwood Avenue bus depot. (The Providence Journal/ Frieda Squires)
This photo of Mary Velez appeared in the Providence Journal during a 2014 interview (The Providence Journal/ Frieda Squires)

Velez will be placed on leave, which Avedisian said is RIPTA policy.

“It doesn’t matter what kind of accident it is,” he explained. “That person will be put on leave until we get answers to the investigation.”

The incident marks the second crash involving a RIPTA bus so far this year. In January, a more serious crash into a Warwick business sent three people to the hospital, including the driver. That crash was attributed to a medical event.

Avedisian said the two accidents shouldn’t discourage people from utilizing public transportation.

“70,000 people move on RIPTA every day and, by and large, the vast majority of incidents we have are little fender benders,” he added.

Police are now reviewing the videos and interviewing people who were on the bus as they try to figure out how the crash happened. Investigators said speed did not appear to be a factor.

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