Female Jogger Is Struck, Critically Injured by Metrobus in Northwest D.C.

By James Hohmann
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 4, 2009

Amanda Mahnke, a 30-year-old House staffer, was taking a jog before work Thursday morning in Northwest Washington when a Metrobus struck and critically injured her about a third of a mile from her apartment, authorities and family members said.

At 8:31 a.m., Mahnke was running north on Connecticut Avenue when a bus heading east on Florida Avenue struck her in the intersection near DuPont Circle, authorities said. She did not have any identification on her, so authorities transported her to George Washington University Hospital as a Jane Doe.

Mahnke is the communications director for Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.). When she hadn't shown up to work by noon or returned a message from the congressman, a few of the eight others who work in the office began to worry.

Larsen and his chief of staff, Kim Johnston, decided to send a few staff members looking for her. They went to her seventh-floor apartment in the 1700 block of New Hampshire Avenue and got no answer. Then someone in the office saw an online news report that described the bus accident.

"The description in the paper matched Amanda," Larsen said in a telephone interview from Everett, Wash. "We tried to put two and two together."

Two staffers raced to the hospital, and, with photos, they confirmed that it was her, Larsen said.

She was listed in stable condition late Thursday night with a fractured skull, said her father, Mark Mahnke. She has several other fractures that are not considered life threatening, he said.

Mahnke's brother, Robert, who lives in the District and works for the Justice Department, saw an online news account, too. He found out that she was in the hospital, and soon Mahnke's parents, who live in Maine, learned, too. Jessica and Mark Mahnke, retired child psychiatrists, grabbed their cat and jumped in their 24-foot Winnebego about 7 p.m. to begin the drive to the District. They hoped to arrive by early Friday morning.

The bus driver, who has driven for Metro since August 2000, began her shift at 7:06 a.m., Metro spokeswoman Angela Gates said. She had just finished her first run of the day and was heading to 14th Street and Missouri Avenue to take her bus on the S-1 route toward Potomac Park, Gates said. Because the bus, No. 4262, was not in service, no passengers were on board.

Rescue units took the driver to the hospital for a checkup because she was having trouble breathing and had symptoms of an anxiety attack, said Pete Piringer, a spokesman for the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department.

The unnamed bus driver was given a drug and alcohol test and placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation, Metro spokeswoman Taryn McNeil said. Both are standard agency practices.

Officer Helen Andrews of the D.C. police said the Major Crash Investigation unit was handling the probe.

Amanda Mahnke is the youngest of five. She is a Boston native and graduated from Carleton College in 2001. At the school, she played on the women's varsity soccer team. In the District, family members said, she plays in recreational soccer leagues and loves to run.

Because the district he represents is 2,800 miles and three time zones away, Larsen said, his top press aide often stays late to work with local media on the West Coast.

"For such a small woman, she is a big load of dynamite," the congressman said of his 5-5 aide. "She's really very energetic, known for early mornings and late nights and working really hard."

A GWU Hospital spokeswoman declined to comment on Mahnke's condition late Thursday night.

But Mahnke's boss and father expressed optimism about her recovery.

"We cheered when we heard she was alive," said Mark Mahnke, 67, as he sped down the highway through Rhode Island. "We have our fingers crossed."

Law enforcement officials said the nearly 12 hours between the accident and the public identification of Mahnke should serve as a warning to joggers that they should carry identification.

"It's very important for you to have some I.D., even if you're jogging," said Officer Quintin Peterson, a D.C. police spokesman.

The last fatal Metrobus accident was Sept. 26, Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein, said. A bus hit a taxi van at Virginia Avenue and 19th Street NW. A passenger in the taxi died, and five others were injured, Farbstein said.

In 2007, four Metrobus accidents resulted in the deaths of five pedestrians, Farbstein said. On Valentine's Day of that year, two women died after they were struck at Seventh Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW while walking with the light in a crosswalk. Staff writer Yamiche Alcindor and staff researchers Julie Tate and Meg Smith contributed to this report.

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