Pittsburgh Sinkhole Bus Passenger Sues PWSA

The sole passenger on what is known as the downtown sinkhole bus filed a lawsuit against the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority on Friday, claiming the company should have been aware of the potential danger from previous floods.

Michelle Goodlow of Washington is suing the agency for negligence. The lawsuit, filed in Allegheny County’s Common Pleas Court, also names an unidentified private company that would have owned a separate aqueduct in the area as a defendant.

The PWSA did not immediately respond to a message asking for comment.

According to the complaint, Goodlow boarded the Port Authority G31 Flyer, South Fayette to Bridgeville at 6:35 a.m. on October 28, 2019, and was seated in the third row in the back on the driver’s side.

At 7:40 am, when the bus stopped at a red light on 10th Street and Penn Avenue, the large sinkhole opened beneath it. A 60-foot stretch of road collapsed and took the bus away.

“As a result, the bus immediately fell backwards and sank into the sinkhole,” the lawsuit said. “The front of the bus where Mrs. Goodlow was sitting then toppled in the air at a 45-degree angle.”

The “sudden backward thrust” knocked Goodlow’s body back and the area inside the bus began to fill with running sewage, the complaint said.

“MS. Goodlow tried to hold on to the bus fastenings as tightly as possible so as not to slide down the aisle,” it continued.

According to the complaint, the bus driver was able to pry open the doors and the driver and Goodlow jumped about 10 feet to the ground.

Goodlow was admitted to hospital with rib, back and chest pain, the lawsuit said.

She was diagnosed with a bruise on the chest wall and lower back strain and was sent home with pain medication, it said.

A month later, when the pain and discomfort persisted, she was diagnosed with lumbar vertebrae, neck strain, and a concussion.

She also learned that her teeth were broken and she was diagnosed with severe migraines and anxiety, the complaint said.

Original reports from Pittsburgh public safety officials said no one was injured in the incident.

The lawsuit alleges that the sinkhole was caused by damage to a 48-inch storm sewer at the intersection owned by PWSA and a separate 6-inch private commercial aqueduct there.

“To the best of their knowledge and belief, the defendant PWSA has been aware of problems with the drainage of the above-mentioned storm sewer since at least September 24, 2016, when a clogged collecting basin led to a flood of the street,” says the complaint.

The sinkhole bus quickly went viral and became a popular meme.

The 6015C bus was pulled out of the hole by a giant crane the night of the incident and returned to service six weeks later.

It took significantly longer – almost a year – for the road to reopen.

The operation required 746 tons of backfill, 2,100 square feet of brick, 400 tons of concrete, and more than 1,100 hours.

Paula Reed Ward is the author of the Tribune Review. You can contact Paula by email at pward@triblive.com or on Twitter.

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