Potato truck broadsides transit bus at full speed at Southridge

A semi hauling potatoes was going full speed on Highway 395 when it crashed Tuesday into the side of a Ben Franklin Transit bus in Kennewick.

All five people on the bus were hurt, including a teenage boy whose injuries have been reported as serious.

The boy, 15, was taken to the nearby Trios Southridge Hospital. Washington State Patrol troopers were trying to identify the boy so they could reach his family.

The truck driver, Zurisaday Moya-Jimenez, 33, of Umatilla, was unhurt.

The collision was reported shortly after 3 p.m. at Hildebrand Boulevard at the intersection with Bob’s Burgers & Brew and the Southridge Sports Complex.

Trooper Chris Thorson said the potato truck was traveling north on the highway, heading into Kennewick, when truck driver Moya-Jimenez realized his brakes had completely failed. He was trying to stop for the red light at Hildebrand, he told officials.

Moya-Jimenez told troopers he was going the highway speed, which is 55 mph, when the truck broadsided the bus.

The bus had the green light and was going west on Hildebrand across the highway when it was T-boned. There are no seat belts on a transit bus, according to Kurt Workman, a Ben Franklin Transit spokesman.

The five people on the bus included the female driver, two teen boys, a teenage girl and a male passenger.

One boy and the girl, each 15, were taken to Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland.

Bus driver Emily M. Mills, 25, of Richland, was taken to Lourdes Medical Center in Pasco. Passenger Danny E. Powell, 54, of Pasco, was transported to Trios Southridge Hospital.

“If this bus had been fully loaded, this would be a different story,” Thorson said.

No other vehicles were involved in the collision.

Moya-Jimenez was cooperating with investigators at the scene, Thorson said.

Troopers said they do not believe alcohol or drugs were involved and will be running tests on the truck to confirm the brake problem.

The passengers have not yet been interviewed because they were being treated.

That section of Highway 395, near Hildebrand Boulevard, remained closed until the truck and bus were towed, the spilled potatoes removed and the roadway cleaned up.

Kennewick officials and the Washington Department of Transportation have been concerned about that stretch of Highway 395 for some time because Southridge is the city’s fastest-growing neighborhood.

Since Hildebrand has become clogged with more drivers, they’re trying to make the nearby Ridgeline Drive intersection safer and more attractive to offset the traffic.

The city and transportation department have advanced plans to build a $24 million highway overpass and to install proper on and off ramps south of the Hildebrand intersection.

In 2010, a 51-year-old Umatilla woman died nine days after her van was hit by a FedEx truck in that same intersection. The truck driver was northbound on the highway when he ran a red light.

Kristin M. Kraemer: 509-582-1531, @KristinMKraemer