Business hit by RIPTA bus waits in legal limbo

WPRI/Perry Russom

WARWICK, R.I (WPRI) — It has been four months since an auto parts store in Warwick was destroyed by an out of control RIPTA bus.

Manuel Rosario, who owns The Driver’s Seat, has been left wondering if he’ll ever be able to re-open his business, or recoup the costs of the merchandise he had inside.

He was inside the building, which he shared with a paintball facility, when the bus came crashing in. The impact destroyed three cars in his showroom, and countless car parts he had in stock.

“There was over 40 thousand dollars worth of merchandise,” Rosario said. He purchased the business just four months before the crash.

“Then a bus hit it, and destroyed everything,” he said, revisiting the scene with Eyewitness News on Wednesday. There’s a fence around the building, and the roof is collapsed on top of where Rosario’s business once was. He hasn’t been able to see the extent of the damage inside.

Rosario’s attorney Michael Lombardi told Eyewitness News Rosario rented the space in the building, and did not have renter’s insurance. His only recourse is through RIPTA, which is self-insured. Lombardi filed a claim with the transit agency for the damaged cars and merchandise. He says RIPTA sent out an insurance adjuster to take a look at the damage, but Rosario has yet to see a payment from RIPTA.

A spokesperson for RIPTA declined to comment, citing pending legal claims.

On Thursday, Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian, who is the Chairman of the RIPTA Board of Directors, sent Eyewitness News the following statement:

We are carefully investigating and evaluating Mr. Rosario’s claim.

We will respond to it as soon as that process is complete. However, because this claim could possibly lead to legal action we cannot comment further.

“It’s just been a waiting game,” Rosario said.

Rosario’s lawyer says RIPTA is “stonewalling” the small business owner, and refuses to take responsibility for the crash. At the time of the accident, investigators said it appeared the driver had a medical emergency.

If RIPTA does not pay the claim soon, Lombardi said he’ll file a lawsuit against the agency.

Meanwhile, Rosario has been a stay-at-home-dad to his 8-month-old daughter. His family is being supported by only his wife’s income.

When asked if he thought he would ever be able to open his business again, Rosario didn’t know.

“I hope,” he said. “I pray.”

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