Attorneys for the maker of a Metro bus that collided in 2013 with a flatbed tow truck in downtown Angeles, fatally ejecting the bus driver, say in new court papers that their contract with the transportation agency did not require the company to install airbags.
Lawyers for New Flyer of America Inc., in court documents filed in favor of dismissing part of a lawsuit stemming from the death of Metro driver Olivia Gamboa, also say that to this day, Metro does not ask for the installation of airbags to protect drivers from collisions either head-on or from the side.
“This was standard industry practice in 1997 when MTA’s specifications for the bus were promulgated and in 2001 when the bus was delivered to MTA,” according to the New Flyer attorneys’ court papers.
New Flyer’s lawyers also defend the safety of the bus in which Gamboa died. The bus was hit by a tow truck on the right passenger doorway on a downtown street. The truck was going 41 to 50 mph, according to the New Flyer’s attorneys’ court papers.
“To put it bluntly, in order for the bus to completely protect the driver in such a violent crash, the bus would have had to have been built like an armored battle tank, not an urban transit bus,” according to the papers.
The bus driver’s husband, Bernardo Gamboa, daughters Azucena and Mayte Gamboa and another family member, Paola Gamboa Banda, filed a wrongful death suit in Los Angeles Superior Court in September 2013 against New Flyer, Hermosa Beach Towing and the estate of the tow truck driver, Yousef Adhami.
Gamboa, 47, of Montebello, died at a hospital after the collision June 12, 2013, in which she was thrown from the bus. She had driven Metro buses for 13 years, according to a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Adhami, a 44-year-old Gardena resident, died in August 2013 from his injuries.
The plaintiffs allege New Flyer was negligent in its design of the 2001 model vehicle Gamboa drove. The bus had faulty seatbelts and a “lack of crashworthiness,” the suit states.
But New Flyer blames the accident on Adhami, saying he ran a red light and was driving too fast. The company’s court papers allege that Gamboa’s death was tantamount to an act of vehicular manslaughter by Adhami, and that his driver’s license was either suspended or revoked at the time of the 5:10 a.m. crash at 457 S. Broadway, near Fifth Street.
New Flyer’s lawyers also state in their court papers that when the bus was delivered, it had a handrail installed near the fare-collection box.
“Metro removed this handrail in about 2005 and replaced it with a totally different handrail” deigned by another company, according to New Flyers’ attorneys’ court papers.
“Metro personnel who investigated the crash concluded that this yellow handrail was bent during the accident sequence and pushed against the driver seat belt release mechanism, which caused the seat belt to release,” according to the court papers. “New Flyer, therefore, has no liability for any defect in the design, manufacture or installation of the replacement handrail.”
Footage from a video camera trained on Gamboa “suggests that decedent was wearing the lap portion of the driver seat belt,” according to the New Flyer attorney’s court papers.
Gamboa — who was just starting her route — was alone on the bus at the time of the crash. As a result of the collision, a fire hydrant was sheared, and the tow truck crashed into a 7-Eleven store.
A hearing on the New Flyer dismissal motion is scheduled for March 1.
–City News Service