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Inspection finds no issue with brakes on bus that killed Bellevue couple
By Carrie Rodriguez
A recent mechanical inspection of a Sound Transit bus that crashed into a vehicle and killed a Bellevue couple in Kirkland last month found that the brakes work fine, said Washington State Patrol authorities.
The news contradicts what the driver of the bus, Everett resident Aleksandr Rukhlin, 54, told investigators following the crash.
"When we inspected the bus on May 31 the brakes were in operating condition," said state patrol Sgt. Jerry Cooper, noting that the driver said the brakes had failed. "The bus was towed right after the incident."
Rukhlin was driving the bus on May 6 when it exited northbound I-405 in the carpool lane and slammed into a sport utility vehicle on the Northeast 128th Street overpass. The bus finally came to a stop on the carpool on-ramp to northbound I-405.
The crash killed Robert H. Rotta, 76, and Elizabeth E. Rotta, 75. A third passenger in the sport utility vehicle, Kirkland resident Kendall L. Rotta, 51, was transported to Harborview Medical Center with undisclosed injuries. All three were wearing their seat belts.
There were about 35 passengers on the Route 535 bus, which runs from Bellevue to Lynnwood.
Rukhlin, who has been on paid administrative leave, could not be reached for comment.
He told the Seattle Times in a June 13 story that he "pushed on the pedal. There was nothing, I couldn’t stop the bus. The air pressure was fine — I don’t know why it didn’t work.”
A spokesperson for the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1576 in Everett, of which Rukhlin is a member of, declined to comment on the inspection finding.
Cooper said state patrol wanted to make this information public as soon as possible to "alleviate the concern of many people" who ride busses.
He noted that the Washington State Patrol still has a "long way to go" with the investigation.
Carrie Rodriguez is editor of the Kirkland Reporter, a sister paper to the Bellevue Reporter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-822-9166 ext 5050.