Metrobus Strikes and Kills 2 Women in D.C. Crosswalk

By Clarence Williams
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 15, 2007

A Metrobus struck and killed two Alexandria women last night as they crossed a key intersection in downtown Washington, the third fatal incident involving a Metrobus and pedestrians in eight months.

The driver, Victor Z. Kolako, 53, of Southeast Washington, was charged late last night with two counts of negligent homicide, D.C. police said.

The two women were on Seventh Street NW in the Penn Quarter neighborhood and had the "walk" signal to cross Pennsylvania Avenue when a northbound bus turned left onto the avenue about 6:40 p.m., said Lisa Farbstein, a Metro spokeswoman.

Farbstein said she did not know whether yesterday's weather had anything to do with the accident. It appeared the intersection had been cleared of snow and ice.

One woman died at the scene. Rescuers performed CPR on the other woman as they transported her to George Washington University Hospital, said Alan Etter, a fire department spokesman. She was pronounced dead a short while later at the hospital.

Police identified them as Sally McGee, whose age was not known, and Martha S. Schoenborn, 59. The two were neighbors in Alexandria.

Two drivers who said they saw the accident involving the bus, on the 54 route to Takoma, said the traffic light was green when the bus turned left onto Pennsylvania. But they said the bus driver did not appear to see the women in the crosswalk.

"I had the right of way. The pedestrians had the right of way. He was just going too fast," said Shahzad Cheema, a cabdriver.

Cheema said he yielded the right of way to the women as he waited to turn right from southbound Seventh Street but saw the Metrobus turn ahead of him. Moments later, the women lay in front of his taxi.

The bus driver was being interviewed by D.C. police and was to undergo tests for drugs and alcohol, which is routine in such incidents, officials said. Metro said Kolako has been a Metro driver since 2000, Farbstein said.

"It's just a very tragic day," she said.

D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), a member of the Metro board, said he would question Metro General Manager John B. Catoe Jr. at today's board meeting. Graham said he will seek answers about whether the three fatal accidents since June are isolated incidents or represent a more systemic problem.

"Our sympathies are with the loved ones in this tragedy," Graham said. "Whatever it takes, we're going to fix this."

On Jan. 16, an H8 route Metrobus killed Claudia Gonzalez of the 1400 block of Spring Road NW as she crossed Park Road on 16th Street NW.

In June, in Friendship Heights, Emily Fenichel was fatally struck while crossing Wisconsin Avenue by a bus leaving a bus garage near Jenifer Street.

Staff writer Allan Lengel contributed to this report.

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