Jamie Goodwin and her two daughters boarded a Dash bus Monday afternoon on their way home to Echo Park when she noticed a passenger in the middle of the bus was slumped face-forward and had passed out in her seat. Goodwin and the other passengers exchanged alarmed glances as the driver of the northbound bus that runs between Echo Park and Pico-Union allowed passengers to board through the back door to avoid contact with the unconscious woman, who had vomited on herself. “I was looking for signs of life from this woman, wondering how long this had been going on,” said Goodwin, who grew upset after the driver said she had reported the unsconsious passenger to her dispatcher about two hours earlier and was awaiting assistance. That’s when Goodwin and her daughters got off the bus on Echo Park Avenue and she called 911. A fire department ambulance arrived within minutes at the Dash bus turnaround at Echo Park Avenue and Donaldson Street and transported the woman to a hospital.
Today, a spokesman for city’s Department of Transportation said the city will impose a financial penalty on the contractor – MV Transportation – that operates the bus in light of “unacceptable performance.” James Lefton, who oversees the city’s Dash bus operations, said: “They should have called 911 immediately.”
People familiar with the incident say the rider, described as an African-American woman with a walker, was a frequent Dash bus rider who fell asleep on the bus. That might explain the lack of urgency on the part of the driver and bus company staff to seek immediate medical attention.
The woman is expected to be released soon from a hospital, where she is in stable condition after being treated for high blood pressure.
Judie Smith, MV Transportation Regional Vice President for Southern California, said the employees involved in the incident have been placed on administrative leave pending the results of an internal investigation. “MV Transportation Inc. takes the safety of our passengers very seriously and regrets this unfortunate incident.”
Goodwin, 36, who rides the Dash bus about three to five times a week, said she was left shaken by the experience.
“By the time I got to my house with my little girls, we heard sirens coming. I would have waited at the Echo Park turn-a- round (for the Dash) but it was too much to witness with my two little girls,” Goodwin said. I was just glad to hear the sirens and see them pass so quickly.
* This story has been updated with a statement from MV Transportation.