Police will not charge a city bus driver — now identified as Ralph Dowdle, 52, of Arden — that crashed a bus into several College Street businesses Saturday, April 17. In an announcement today, the Asheville Police Department stated, “Dowdle lost consciousness due to the rapid onset of an undiagnosed medical condition.”
“The bus careened onto the sidewalk after Mr. Dowdle blacked out behind the wheel,” the announcement states. The bus crashed into several vehicles, damaging the fronts of the Mediterranean Restaurant, Stella Blue and Spa Theology. It also ruptured a gas line, closing down part of the street for much of the day until the leak was repaired.
“The APD Traffic Safety Unit consulted with the Buncombe County District Attorney’s Office on Monday afternoon regarding whether charges would be filed. It was concluded that there will be no charges in this case,” as Dowdle lost consciousness due to a medical condition. Dowdle was also taken to Mission, but released later that same day.
Dowdle had met the physical and licensing requirements required for a bus driver.
The crash also seriously injured a woman, Susan Zakanycz, 55, of Asheville, who was walking into the restaurant. She remains under care at Mission Hospital.
An announcement from the city revealed that Spa Theology and Stella Blue would be closed until Friday as they undergo repairs. The Mediterranean Restaurant has already reopened.
“The City of Asheville shares in the community’s concern for the pedestrian who was injured,” Transportation Director Ken Putnam said in the announcement. “We are all saddened by this accident, and our hearts go out to her and her family.
The full announcements from the city and police are below.
— David Forbes, senior reporter
Photo by Alan Hantz
ASHEVILLE – APD Traffic Safety Unit officers have issued their report on a city bus wreck that occurred at about 10 a.m. April 17 at 57 College St.
The bus driver was Mr. Ralph Terry Dowdle, birth date 2/24/1958, of Arden. Mr. Dowdle is employed by a subsidiary of First Transit, which operates and manages the city’s public transportation program.
The bus careened onto the sidewalk after Mr. Dowdle blacked out behind the wheel.
A pedestrian, Ms. Susan Jane Zakanycz, birth date 3/21/1955, of Asheville, was seriously injured in the collision. She remains under care at Mission Hospital.
Mr. Dowdle was also examined at Mission shortly after the wreck. He was released the same day.
The APD Traffic Safety Unit consulted with the Buncombe County District Attorney’s Office on Monday afternoon regarding whether charges would be filed. It was concluded that there will be no charges in this case, as Mr. Dowdle lost consciousness due to the rapid onset of an undiagnosed medical condition.
Pursuant to the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), law enforcement cannot release details of medical records.
The City of Asheville issued a statement following the conclusion of an investigation by the Asheville Police Department into a bus wreck that occurred April 17 at 57 College St.
According to investigative reports, the bus veered onto the sidewalk and injured a pedestrian after the driver blacked out behind the wheel. After the Asheville Police Department consulted with the District Attorney’s Office, it was concluded that no charges would be filed in the case since it appeared the driver lost consciousness due to a health-related episode. The driver is employed by a subsidiary of First Transit, Asheville Transit Management, Inc., which operates and manages the city’s public transportation system.
“The City of Asheville shares in the community’s concern for the pedestrian who was injured,” said Ken Putnam, director of the city’s transportation department. “We are all saddened by this accident, and our hearts go out to her and her family.” The pedestrian remains under care at Mission Hospital.
Bus drivers are required by federal regulations to undergo a physical every two years. Drivers are also required to have a valid commercial driver’s license, which involves meeting specific testing and training standards. Asheville Transit Management, Inc. has confirmed that the driver in this case was current with these requirements.
“Our number one priority is safety. We take safety of the service provided by the city bus fleet, its drivers, and First Transit, the company that contracts with the city to operate the fleet, very seriously,” said Putnam. “In this case, it appears that this was a very unfortunate, tragic and unavoidable incident. We are sympathetic toward everyone who was involved or affected by this accident.”
Asheville Transit is regulated by the Federal Transit Administration and is audited by the federal agency every three years. The audit includes a review of the system’s safety, training and inspection standards.
Three buildings on College Street also sustained damage as a result of the collision. Two buildings housing Stella’s and Spa Theology remain unoccupied due to repair work that must be completed before they can reopen for business. City building code officials are continuing to work with the building owners to facilitate the installation of temporary structural column supports and overhead safety measures on the sidewalk. These temporary repairs will allow time for final repairs to be made while the businesses are open and operating.
Officials estimate that the buildings housing Stella’s and Spa Theology will be able to reopen by late Friday. The building housing the Mediterranean Restaurant received gas service late yesterday and is able to open for business.