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SALT LAKE CITY — Two local women are being hailed as heroes after stopping a runaway Utah Transit Authority bus that had begun to roll into rush-hour traffic in Salt Lake City Friday.
Rachel Staheli and Kathy Fellows were on their way to the University of Utah for work when the bus they were riding overheated coming off the freeway onto Foothill Boulevard. The driver pulled the bus over and got out to reset the battery after the bus employed a mechanism to keep the vehicle from seizing up, according to UTA spokesman Remi Barron.
Once the driver was outside, however, the doors closed and the bus began to roll forward toward other vehicles stopped at a light. Seeing what was happening, Staheli and Fellows jumped up and rushed to the front of the bus to try to help.
“Kathy and I kind of looked at each … and jumped up to try and get the doors open,” Staheli said. “Then the bus driver came around pounding on the door, telling us to get the brakes. So I hopped in the driver’s seat while Kathy was trying to get the door.”
While Fellows attempted to open the bus door to let the driver back in, Staheli slammed on the brake, though her first attempt was unsuccessful.
“She was amazing because she hit the brake at first, and the adrenaline was going so much, she was so shaky and didn’t hit it very hard,” Fellows said. “But it still sent us flying forward a little bit, but then she just slammed on the brake, which sent everyone flying.”
There were 11 people on the bus at the time, many of which Staheli believes work at the University of Utah, but none were seriously injured, though everyone felt a little battered and bruised. Fellows said she later went to Urgent Care to check on her arm after being thrown onto her back when the bus stopped.
The incident is now currently under investigation. UTA investigators will be contacting all those involved with the incident to try to figure out why the bus began rolling forward. According to Barron, the bus driver was following protocol when she pulled the bus over and got out to reset the battery. It is still unclear, however, why the bus began to roll forward.
“We’re just glad no one was seriously injured,” Barron said. “… And it’s obviously not something we can accept, even if (the bus rolled) just a short distance while the operator’s not inside.”
Contributing: Peter Samore