December 19th, 2008 — the day a bus *almost* slid off an icy Capitol Hill onto I-5

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CHS’s view that day. We went straight to Thomas and only slipped and fell three times while trying to cover the crash (Image: CHS)

History doesn’t always repeat but sometimes it echoes.

It was this day in 2008 that two wayward charter buses narrowly avoided tragedy on an icy, snow-packed Capitol Hill in a crash that left one of the coaches jutting out from Melrose and hanging precariously above I-5.

While the scale of Monday’s tragedy was much greater and much more terrible, the dangling Amtrak car in the DuPont derailment reminded us of that Friday, December 19, 2008 afternoon when CHS was new to the neighborhood news beat and found itself trying to cover an unbelievable story playing out at the base of an icy Thomas where the two buses slid into Melrose’s I-5 barriers. Fortunately, we had a lot of help from readers and neighborhood photographers.

“Just in from the scanner. Bus with around 50 passengers on board has crashed off Melrose and is hanging about 10 feet over the lanes of I5 below,” we reported confidently that day as the situation first was unfolding — though we were mostly unsure what we were hearing was really happening. “Accident involves two buses and there are reports of injuries. Heading out now for coverage and pictures.”

Initial reports of a Metro coach turned out to be incorrect. What CHS found were two charter buses full of students that had tried to find route through a snowy, icy Capitol Hill and ended up on Thomas where the almost tragedy unfolded. One bus followed the other as they both slid and skidded out of control. A witness said she saw the first bus hit the guard rail and then saw the second sliding quickly down behind it. It collided with the first, pushed it farther over the edge, and came to a rest beside it.

Capitol Hill Bus Accident in the Snow

Accident leaves bus hanging over I5

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Inside the coaches, teens returning from Job Corps scrambled out onto an icy street, and were shocked to see one of the buses they just escaped jutting out above I-5, a menacing spray of snow knocked onto the roadway below. There were no major injuries.

Columbia Basin Job Corps would later honor members of the Seattle Police Department, Seattle Fire Department, and Washington State Patrol who were the first to respond to the crash scene in a ceremony at E Pine’s Fire Station 25.


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4 thoughts on “December 19th, 2008 — the day a bus *almost* slid off an icy Capitol Hill onto I-5

  1. As I recall, tragedy was averted by the smart thinking of the 3rd bus driver, who didn’t follow the first two down the icy street, and hence didn’t push the dangling bus over the edge.

    • Almost true- it was actually a resident of the Carroll Apartments next door that moved a “Do Not Enter” sign into the middle of Thomas Street, preventing the third bus from even attempting it. A full-on hero!

  2. Those streets are in no way designed for such large vehicles, nor are there any major designations there in a residential neighborhood. So why on earth were they heading downhill on Thomas there in the first place?

    Thanks for the blast to the past.

    • Because Denny *was* rightfully closed and rather than go down to Olive or Pine the drivers decided a narrow neighborhood street was a better option.

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