NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The MTA has suspended a bus driver after an empty bus rolled backward for two city blocks, hitting several parked cars before crashing into a church.
Cell phone video caught the empty Q58 MTA bus as it careened the wrong way down Palmetto Street in Bushwick, Brooklyn around 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.
“My first thought, somebody stole the bus and went for a joyride,” resident Paul Quiroz told CBS2’s Janelle Burrell.
“Once it passed us, that’s when we were like, holy crap there’s nobody in the bus,” witness Angelica Salemi said.
The bus sideswiped 10 parked vehicles, including one that resident Nicholas Rivera was working on.
“The bus hit his car, he was hit by his car which flung him into the gate,” Nicholas’ brother Eric told CBS2’s Valerie Castro.
It wasn’t until the bus got to the intersection of Knickerbocker Avenue that it finally came to a stop, crashing into a van and Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church, leaving behind a mangled mess of the iron fence and taking a chunk of the brick wall with it.
“I was standing at the corner of Palmetto and Knickerbocker when I see the bus coming back,” said witness Raul Reyes. “I ran away.”
The 30-year-old bus driver, according to witnesses, said she thought she had put the bus in park and stepped out, but the bus was in neutral.
“It looked like almost a cartoon. Like the bus is going backwards, she’s running right after the bus,” witness Will Perez said. “It was crazy, it was kind of surreal.”
Quiroz says the driver was shocked.
“She’s like, ‘I can’t believe it. This is my third day on the job,'” he said.
The MTA hired the driver on April 27. She underwent six weeks of training, graduated last Thursday and went solo this week, CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported.
“Clearly seems to be bus operator problem. Investigation just started. There is a formal discipline process, depending on the amount of time the employee has been working,” Interim Executive Director of the MTA Veronique Hakim said. “And obviously we need to heighten all training and safety associated with bus operation.”
Residents who slept through the ordeal were stunned after seeing the footage and amazed no one was seriously hurt.
“It’s crazy,” said resident Rodrigo Silvia. “It could have been our house.”
“I just thank God it happened at the time that it did because it’s a really busy intersection,” said another resident. “There could have been a lot of deaths and bad accidents.”
The Transport Workers Union issued a statement, saying: “We are grateful no one was seriously hurt… She is obviously very, very upset and we’re going to assist her.”
The church van was totaled and so was a smart car. Another SUV in its path was also left with significant damage.
Eric tells CBS2 brother is doing fine, and that the family is glad that everyone is safe and nobody else was hurt.
No word on whether or not the 30-year-old driver will actually lose her job.