SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - Investigators say the driver of a tour bus that crashed in San Francisco appears to have hit the accelerator when he intended to hit the brake and reached speeds of more than 45 miles per hour as he barreled down a city street for several blocks.
San Francisco police announced Wednesday that driver error was to blame for the November crash that left 19 people injured, six of them critically. Police cited the driver, 53-year-old Kenneth Malvar, for unsafe speed.
Investigators said they found no mechanical problems with the bus's brakes, throttle or steering.
Malvar's attorney, Robert Cartwright, disputed the findings, saying his client stepped on the brakes, but they failed.
The bus hit a bicyclist before coming to a stop by hitting 12 vehicles, scaffolding and a utility pole.
"I just want to say there was a mechanical problem on the bus. I'm very disappointed that the outcome of SFPD. So, now it's going to be left upon me that it was driver error," he said.
The first collision happened at Taylor Street, where the bus hit a bicyclist.
"Somewhere [at] that point that he starts to accelerate rapidly. At some point down the road, he reaches speeds upwards of 45 miles per hour," said San Francisco Police Sergeant Kevin Edison.
Commander Ann Mannix added, "Then he continued eastbound for three blocks where he hit other cars and other stationary objects before he came to a rest at Stockton."
At a morning news conference, San Francisco police said there is no evidence the driver crashed intentionally.
They say he simply made a mistake.
"We definitely have proof to show that he did step on the throttle. So, that's why we believe he apparently stepped on the wrong pedal," said Sgt. Edison.
But Malvar disagreed. "They said I didn't know my gas pedal and brake pedal. To me that's absurd."
Malvar's attorney, Robert Cartwright said not finding evidence of a mechanical cause does not necessarily mean the crash was the driver's fault. "He has 15 years of experience, he's a marine, he kept his cool. He maneuvered that bus brilliantly, saved a lot of people's lives."
The CHP, which was charged with examining the bus, went to extraordinary lengths to rule out mechanical failure, by removing the throttle and braking systems from the damaged bus and putting them on an identical vehicle. "We then tested the throttle assembly on the exemplar vehicle and found that it performed exactly as it was designed to," said CHP spokesman Daniel Hill.
Malvar said, "And for those who were injured in the accident. I'm very disappointed that SFPD or Highway Patrol were unable to find the mechanical cause."
Before the news conference, the San Francisco Police issued Malvar a speeding ticket for his role in the crash.