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Questions loom following Muni accident

By Ethan Fletcher
Of The Examiner Staff
Published on Wednesday, December 17, 2003

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Questions remain unanswered on the cause of a wild accident Monday night in which an out of control Muni bus smashed into a pornographic video store at the corner of Mission and Sixth streets.

The bus sent a street light pole flying across Sixth Street and into a second-story apartment before smashing accordion-style 4-feet deep into the porno shop.

No pedestrians were hurt but 17 bus passengers Mission Street when the driver moved into the fast lane and sideswiped another car on its left. For unknown reasons, the bus then changed its direction from east to northeast, crossed the intersection, and struck the Sixth Street adult video store at 10:15 p.m. The car, a green, 4-door, Chrysler LeBaron, sustained minimal damage.

Adrian Jones, a culinary student who lives on the second floor across the street at the newly opened Bayanihan House, said she was cooking when she looked up and saw the out-of-control bus.

"I was looking out my window and I see the bus. I said, 'Where in the hell is he going that damn fast?'"

She said the bus sideswiped a car and swerved out of the way of another car before ramming into the porn store. Jones joined the rest of her neighbors down on the sidewalk.

The driver, 47-year-old Darrow Richardson, just started working for Muni four months ago, according to spokeswoman Maggie Lynch, and has been placed on non-driving status. She could not comment on whether the bus was speeding or the cause of the accident, saying only that Muni is conducting its own investigation while also assisting the SFPD.

Krimsky was still waiting to interview Richardson, who was taken to the hospital with head and internal injuries but later released.

"He was injured and put on a spinal board being taken away in an ambulance and in no position to make a statement," he said.

Some witnesses and passengers said that the bus made no attempt to brake.

"We were in the left lane and the bus starting swerving and people were flying and trying to hold on," said one young woman on the bus, who asked not to be identified. "I didn't hear any breaking or screeching -- it seemed like the driver was moving full speed ahead."

However, tire marks on the road indicate that the driver did brake shortly before impact, Krimsky said, and after preliminary investigation, police said intoxication was not suspected.

"We are looking into his behavior prior to the accident," Krimsky added. "We think that in about two weeks, we will be able to unscramble exactly what happened."

Police will analyze surveillance video footage taken from nearby stores of the street just prior to the accident in the hope that it will yield more clues about the sequence of events.

By Tuesday morning, the Sixth Street wall of the Golden Gate Adult Superstore was boarded up with plywood and the sidewalk was blocked off with police tape where a fire hydrant veered off at an angle from the collision. X-rated materials could be seen scattered across the floor inside the closed store, while skid marks scarred Sixth Street.

Andre Johnson, 35, said he had just settled into one of the adult video store's private video booths when the bus hit.

"Dude, I didn't even get a chance to look up at the goddamn porno," said Johnson, 35, a Richmond resident. "I was about ready to get some old coins and dump them in there. I couldn't even tell you what kind of act they was doing in the video before the crash came down."

He described the impact as a "big cusssssshhhhh" and said plaster was falling from the ceiling and walls. Johnson said it went dark in the store and the owner was yelling at patrons to get out. He said the guy in the next booth over was screaming, "Oh my God, Oh my God."

Staff reporters J.K. Dineen and Alison Soltau contributed to this story.

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