SAN ANTONIO - A downtown doctor's waiting room that is usually full of people was empty Saturday morning when a VIA bus careened right through the plate glass walls and ended up lodged deep in the building's interior.
Fire officials said the accident happened when a northbound bus was hit by an eastbound pickup at the intersection of Quincy and Lexington.
"The bus swerved and went between a palm tree and a sign and went halfway up into the building," San Antonio Fire Department Battalion Chief Walter Yates said.
Yates said there were no passengers on the bus and both drivers received minor injuries, so firefighters turned their attention to the challenge of freeing the bus from the building.
"Our technical rescue team is going to look at shoring, what they need to do, as we pulled the bus out, we found out that he did take out a large girder beam inside the building so they may have to shore that up. They're going to measure for deviations," Yates said.
Yates said the danger of a collapse as the bus was removed was a factor.
Another concern, Yates said, was the compressed natural gas tanks on the roof of the bus.
"Typically you don't have to worry about the top of the bus being damaged. But in this case they ran up against the structural support of the building but the tanks are completely intact. I had some concerns about the lines going to the tanks. Hazmat checked it out and ran a meter over it and no leaks so all of that is good," Yates said.
A veteran with decades of experience, Yates said the incident was a perfect example of on the job training because nothing can prepare first responders for improvising solutions on the spot.
"There are some training venues that we go to that stimulate, obviously, cutting buses to remove people and things like that, but not entanglement of a bus in a building," Yates said.
Yates said the heat was also a factor as firefighters worked to disentangle the mess on one of the hottest days of the summer season.
"My concern is keeping these guys cool," Yates said.
Tow truck driver Gilbert Gonzales of Mission Wrecker Service helped pull the bus from the building.
Attaching chains and cables, and using a bit of brute force in small increments, Gonzales was able to pull the bus far enough out of the building for the bus to move on its own power.
Bystanders cheered when the bus began backing up to safety and no part of the building collapsed.
Witnesses agreed it was an amazing sight when the bus drove out of the parking lot and into the street without the benefit of the tow truck.
Smiling after successfully completing the job, Gonzales joked "It's all part of my training and we need to do it again."
Fire personnel had no estimate on damage and no idea how long it would take to repair the building.
The 303 Quincy building is home to Sun Research and a number of physicians. Rescue personnel said anyone with an appointment in the building for Monday should check with their doctor to see what arrangements have been made for patient care.
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