Lawyer: Driver purposely crashed runaway SF tour bus

The attorney for the bus driver behind the wheel of the horrific Union Square crash that injured 20 people told KTVU Tuesday that the driver tried to stop the vehicle, but crashed it on purpose after the brakes gave out.

Surveillance video obtained by KTVU shows how the tour bus in Friday's crash barreled toward the heart of Union Square. The bus driver was among the 20 injured.

52-year-old Kenneth Malvar of San Francisco is being represented by attorney Robert Cartwright.

Cartwright says the driver is recovering at SF General. He is in stable condition after undergoing at least one surgery to his knee.

"It was a runaway bus and he did everything humanly possible to avoid hitting people," said Cartwright, describing it as a panic situation for the driver who handled the incident, in the attorney's word, "heroically."

At around 3 p.m. Friday, Malvar was driving the bus owned by City Sightseeing. The driver says he had just stopped at Taylor and Post when he heard a small explosion.

"He hears a boom or a bang. The bus just starts to accelerate. The gas pedal is just stuck. It's floppy," said the attorney.

On the surveillance video, a woman with a baby stroller on the sidewalk is seen quickly moving away from the street as the bus approaches.

The attorney says the driver tried everything he could to stop the bus.

"He puts his foot on the brake. No brake. The brake pedal is doing nothing. He has push buttons that change the gear. He tries to shift the bus into neutral and nothing happens. Tries to turn the bus off; that doesn't work either," said Cartwright.

The driver says he purposely struck orange plastic k-rails along the street to try and slow down the bus.

"He said they flew away like paper with the weight of the bus. He tried to hit some parked cars to scrub some speed off; that did nothing," said Cartwright.

After three blocks, the bus finally stopped when the attorney says Malvar deliberately crashed into construction scaffolding.

"Unfortunately, he hit some cars with people in them. He could see ahead down to Grant, Chinatown and everything else. There's cars and people, so he drives the bus right into the Apple store which is under construction and had scaffolding up," said the attorney.

Cartwright says 90 minutes before the bus went out of control, Malvar heard an alarm go off and looked at his air-compressor gauge which controls the brakes, transmission and throttle. It showed slightly elevated pressure, but that the system almost immediately corrected itself.

"What we do know is that the bus had a failure and that can occur from maintenance, but it can also occur from a design defect," said Cartwright.

The attorney says he is planning to sue the manufacturer of the bus.

He says the driver is grateful no one was killed.

Cartwright says Malvar has been driving for the company for ten years and that he has a good record.