It was a “terrible” weekend for public bus transport in Oslo, conceded a spokesperson for regional transit authority Ruter. Three people were killed and several more injured, some seriously, in two separate bus accidents late Saturday night and Sunday evening. Bus company workers were gathering for a memorial on Monday, while police and state accident investigators try to determine what happened.
The first incident involved the 321 line from Oslo to Lillestrøm, northeast of the capital. A bus with 17 people board heading north on its way to Lillestrøm suddenly careened off Highway 4 at Rommen, rolled down the embankment and landed on its side.
‘Chaos and folks screaming’
“We had no time to think as the bus rolled over,” passenger Bjørn Rogne, age 55 from Skjetten, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “Everything was chaos and folks were screaming.”
One passenger, a 60-year-old man, was found dead at the scene. The bus’ 56-year-old driver was seriously injured and later died at Ullevål University Hospital in Oslo. Another woman was also badly injured but was listed in serious but stable condition on Monday. Three others were rushed to hospital as well but their injuries were listed as moderate and not life-threatening.
Passengers questioned by police reported no unusual incidents on board the bus before its driver lost control, and the roads were said to be wet but not especially dangerous. Police said they were “keeping all options open” in their probe, with an autopsy of the driver scheduled to see whether he had any sort of seizure before running off the road. The bus itself, operated by Unibuss on contract to Ruter, was also being examined for any signs of malfunction. The driver had been working for Unibuss for 10 years, reported newspaper Aftenposten.
Another collision, and rolling out of control
On Sunday evening, another Ruter bus serving the 31 line between Grorud in Oslo and Fornebu, west of the capital, collided with a vehicle farther south on Highway 4, where it turns into the busy city street known as Trondheimsveien. Passengers were let out of the bus as its driver filled out an accident report, when witnesses told media outlets and police that the bus reportedly started rolling on down the street towards the busy rotary intersection called Carl Berners Plass. The bus was said to have traveled at high speed, eventually crashing into a parked car but not before it had swiped other vehicles, hit trees and street lights and careened dangerously close to startled pedestrians, hitting and killing one of them. Several others were injured, including the driver.
“This is another tragic incident,” Philipp Engedal of Nobina Norge, the company that runs the bus line under contract to Ruter. Engedal, Ruter officials, police and state accident investigators suddenly needed to launch another full-scale probe.
“It’s been a terrible 24 hours,” Gry Isberg of Ruter told newspaper Dagbladet. The accident at Rommen on Saturday was the worst in Unibuss’ history and the company planned to contact and offer assistance to all passengers on board as soon as police released their names. Employees of both bus companies were gathering Monday “and our thoughts go to all the survivors,” Isberg told NRK.