Twenty in Hospital With Injuries After Tour Bus Crash Near Union Square

At least 20 people were injured in a tour bus crash in San Francisco’s Union Square area Friday afternoon, leaving six in critical condition.

Police and fire officials said that 20 people were transported to hospitals with injuries ranging from minor to life threatening after an out-of-control double-decker tour bus hit at least four vehicles, a bicyclist and a construction site’s scaffolding near Post and Stockton streets shortly before 3 p.m.

Six people were critically injured in the crash, including the bicyclist, according to Officer Albie Esparza. San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said three other people suffered moderate injuries but were expected to survive and 12 people had minor injuries.

San Francisco General Hospital had admitted four adult men, three adult women and one minor injured in the collision as of shortly after 7:30 p.m. tonight, hospital spokesman Brent Andrew said. Five adult patients were listed as critical, two adults were still being evaluated and the minor’s condition was not being disclosed publicly, Andrew said. Esparza said it was unclear what caused the crash, but police are investigating whether it was a mechanical failure, a medical emergency or the influence of drugs and alcohol.

Esparza said the bus started picking up speed in the 500 block of Post Street, and then ran into the scaffolding and cars shortly thereafter. It was initially reported that there were at least 30 people on
board the bus, which stayed upright during the crash. Hayes-White said crews had to extricate two people on the bus, including the driver, two pedestrians trapped underneath the bus and two people in vehicles involved in the collision.

Suspect Killed in Officer-Involved Shooting Believed to Have Stolen Shotgun in Earlier Robbery

San Francisco police Chief Greg Suhr on Friday said the man fatally shot by police Wednesday as he stood with a shotgun on top of a building in the Mission District does not appear to have fired any shots
prior to his death.

The suspect, identified by the San Francisco medical examiner’s office as 25-year-old San Jose resident Javier Lopez Garcia, was fatally shot by San Francisco police officers at the site of California Pacific Medical Center’s St. Luke’s campus at 3555 Cesar Chavez St., which is currently under construction.

Speaking Friday at a town hall called to discuss the police shooting, Suhr said construction workers reported a man with multiple firearms at the site around 4:15 p.m. Multiple eyewitnesses told homicide investigators at the construction site that Garcia was exclaiming as he walked through the site to the sixth floor that “he just wanted to die.” Garcia advised the witnesses that they should call the police and alert the news media, Suhr said. Garcia is alleged to have stolen the shotgun from a San Bruno sporting goods store shortly before the San Francisco incident.

A note used in the robbery of the Big 5 Sporting Goods store at 855 El Camino Real in San Bruno around 3:30 p.m. Wednesday indicated that Garcia wanted a specific shotgun. The note threatened to shoot anyone who made any sudden movements. Suhr said the weapon Garcia used while carrying out the robbery in San Bruno was later determined to be an airsoft pistol that did not shoot

Suhr said there were reports that Garcia had been shooting and officers heard what they believed to be gunshots as they arrived at the scene, but there were no spent casings from the shotgun found at the crime scene. “We don’t know that he fired any shots,” Suhr said.

In the moments prior to his death, Garcia reportedly roamed through the construction site, where roughly 30 construction workers were trapped, while brandishing two firearms, according to Suhr. Officers located Garcia on top of a construction elevator armed with what was later determined to be a pistol-grip silver shotgun and the airsoft pistol. Garcia had the shotgun in a shooting position and was moving it from side to side, Suhr said.

“Officers believed the suspect to be targeting civilians and police,” according to Suhr. Suhr said officers repeatedly identified themselves and instructed Garcia to drop the firearms, but he didn’t comply and continued to point the weapon at the hospital, police and civilians. Three officers then fired five shots from the ground floor up to the sixth floor, striking Garcia on top of the elevator, Suhr said. The chief said two officers with rifles each fired one shot and that a third officer fired three shots from a pistol. He said the department believes the fatal shot was fired from one of the rifles.

The SFPD SWAT team then deployed distraction devices that make a loud noise in order to determine whether Garcia was responsive, but he was dead, Suhr said. San Francisco police have said they plan to release the names of the officers involved in the shooting within 10 days of the incident and Suhr said that their homicide unit and internal affairs unit are continuing to investigate the incident.

Car-Free Powell Street Pilot Aims to Increase Pedestrian Safety

San Francisco officials on Friday launched an 18-month pilot program restricting vehicle traffic on a busy section of San Francisco’s Powell Street near Union Square. The stretch of Powell Street between Union Square and Market Street attracts more than 4,000 pedestrians every hour during peak times, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

Earlier this month the SFMTA’s Board of Directors unanimously approved the Powell Street Safety and Sidewalk Improvement Pilot, which will ban most vehicle traffic on two blocks of Powell Street between Ellis and Geary streets. According to the SFMTA, the pilot aims to improve pedestrian safety on the two blocks of Powell Street just south of Union Square and reduce traffic congestion that is damaging the cable car system. Both the historic Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason cable car lines run through the area, making the street a worldwide attraction year-round. 

Cable cars were not designed to operate in stop-and-go traffic, and repeated stops cause the cable to fray, reducing its life by about 25 percent over the past five years, according to the SFMTA. The increased wear and tear makes an accident more likely and increases operating costs. The problem has grown worse in recent years.

In 2000, the cables were replaced once every 50 days, while today the cables must be replaced roughly every 30 days, according to the SFMTA.  According to the SFMTA, the pilot program will also improve pedestrian safety in the area by reducing the number of vehicles turning at intersections along Powell Street.

The SFMTA website states that, “These high pedestrian volumes, and the high number of cars traveling through the area, lead to extreme traffic congestion and safety issues.”The street surface on both sides of Powell Street between Ellis and O’Farrell have been painted red for the pilot project, while only the northbound lane is painted red between O’Farrell and Geary streets. 

Through traffic will not be permitted on southbound Powell Street, but passenger loading and unloading will be permitted along that section, according to the SFMTA. Commercial loading will still be permitted in designated loading zones on these blocks during the pilot program. Motorists who drive on southbound Powell Street but do not stop to load or unload could get a ticket and, as with elsewhere in the city, non-commercial vehicles are never allowed on the red painted lanes.

Gov. Brown Responds to Paris Killings, Death of California Student

Governor Jerry Brown activated the California State Threat Assessment System in response to the killings Friday in Paris, the governor’s office said Saturday.  The California State Threat Assessment System assists in detecting, preventing, investigating and responding to criminal and terrorist activity, according to the governor’s office. The system also disseminates facts and helps state, local, federal, tribes and the private sector communicate to take action on threats, Brown’s office said. 

No known threats exist in California, but activating the system will help keep residents safe, according to the governor’s office. Brown also said in response to the death of a California State University student in Paris, “On behalf of all Californian’s, Anne and I extend our deepest condolences to the Gonzalez family, Nohemi’s friends and the entire Long Beach State community impacted by this senseless tragedy.” Nohemi Gonzalez died in the Paris killings, Brown’s office said. She was a California State University, Long Beach, student, according to governor’s office.

Largest Remaining Pier in Eastern Span of Old Bay Bridge Demolished

Caltrans demolished the largest remaining pier of the old Bay Bridge’s eastern span Saturday morning using nearly 600 explosive charges over a period of roughly six seconds. The underwater demolition took place around 7:15 a.m. in the San Francisco Bay.

Technicians deployed a blast attenuation system or “bubble curtain” to reduce the impact of the explosions in the surrounding waters by an estimated 80 percent, according to Caltrans officials. Engineers will be collecting data in the vicinity of the pier’s implosion to determine the procedure’s impact on the environment and nearby wildlife.

That information will be used to choose the best method of demolition for the bridge’s remaining piers, according to Brian Maroney, a chief bridge engineer with Caltrans. Caltrans may seek approval to implode some or all of the old eastern span’s remaining 21 piers, according to Caltrans. 

Traffic was briefly stopped on the Bay Bridge during the demolition, and BART trains temporarily refrained from passing through the Transbay Tube. Caltrans officials said that the only visible evidence of Saturday morning’s implosion was a dust cloud in the air and timber floating in the water.

Police Arrest Man Suspected in Fatal Hit-And-Run Collision

 A 59-year-old man surrendered to police Saturday after officers identified him as the alleged driver of a motorcycle that killed a pedestrian in a collision Friday in San Francisco’s Central Sunset neighborhood, police said. 

Officers took San Francisco resident Wayne Valairs into custody in the hit-and-run collision that occurred at 24th Avenue and Noriega Street, according to police. Officers responded at about 6:50 p.m. to a report of the collision involving a female pedestrian, 67, police said.

The victim was crossing the street in the middle of the block when Valairs drove by a double-parked vehicle and struck the woman, according to police. The woman fell to the ground and Valairs ran from the collision site, police said.

The woman was taken to San Francisco General Hospital where she died, according to police. Officers arrested Valairs on suspicion of felony hit-and-run, vehicular manslaughter and speeding, police said. Officers said they have video evidence from multiple locations near the collision site.

Power Outage Initially Leaves 4,000 Customers Without Electricity

Seventy customers were without power Sunday afternoon in the Inner Mission neighborhood of San Francisco, a PG&E spokeswoman said. PG&E crews restored power to all but 70 around the intersection of 25th and Utah streets as of 4:30 p.m., spokeswoman Jacqueline Ratto said.

 PG&E crews expect to have power restored to all customers by 4 a.m. today, Ratto said. Earlier Sunday roughly 4,000 customers in and around San Francisco’s Bernal Heights neighborhood were without power after a PG&E equipment failure, according to PG&E officials.

That outage was reported at 8:32 a.m. near 25th Street and Potrero Avenue. Ratto said crews had restored power to all the customers in that earlier outage. The cause of later outage and the cause the equipment failure are both under investigation.

Mental Health Workers Strike Averted

A tentative union agreement reached between mental health workers at Kaiser Permanente and company officials has averted a strike set for today, union officials said Sunday. The tentative three-year agreement will allow mental health workers to advocate for their patients and meet their patient’s treatment needs without fear of discharge or discipline, according to union officials. 

The agreement also means the ratio of new patients to returning patients will be one to four, union officials said. Kaiser officials have also agreed to rescind the proposed cuts to workers pension benefits, according to union officials. Members will vote on the agreement in the coming weeks, union officials said.

Mental health workers at Kaiser Permanente are represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers, union officials said. “Kaiser has opened the door to a positive working relationship with us with the goal of providing timely, quality care to our patients by hiring hundreds more mental health professionals,” President of the union’s Northern California chapter of Kaiser mental health clinicians Clement Papazian said in a statement. “It’s a positive first step,” Papazian’s statement said.

Weather Forecast for the San Francisco Bay Area

Today will be partly cloudy. Highs will be in the lower 60s and northwest winds will reach 15 to 20 miles per hour. Tonight will be partly cloudy. Lows will be in the lower 50s and northwest winds will reach 5 to 15 miles per hour. 

Tuesday will be partly cloudy in the morning, becoming sunny. Highs will be in the mid 60s and north winds will reach around 5 miles per hour, becoming northwest winds reaching 10 to 15 miles per hour in the afternoon.