Safety barricades failed in SF Union Square tour bus crash

The safety of orange traffic security barriers has been questioned following the double-deck tour bus crash that critically injured a handful of people in San Francisco’s Union Square last Friday. A newly-released surveillance video shows the barriers getting plowed over by the bus after the driver, 52-year-old Kenneth Malvar, said his brakes failed.

According to the Department of Public Works (DPW), the barriers are designed to carry more than 160 gallons of water to make them secure and to slow down vehicles that run into them. KTVU investigated and found many were either empty or not all the way full. 

Robert Cartwright, the bus driver’s attorney said his client tried to hit a few at first to see if he could slow the bus down. “He said they flew away like paper with the weight of the bus,” Cartwright said.

“It is a safety issue that it does keep them in place and it does keep people safe from oncoming vehicles,” said DPW’s Rachel Gordon.

On Wednesday, those barriers were back up in front of the Prescott hotel where renovations are underway. KTVU reporter Tara Moriarty counted three barriers that had large holes or cracks in them, It wasn’t clear if they were hit by the bus or not, but they definitely didn’t have water in them.

"If the contractor does not comply with the standard, [they’re] subject to fines of up to $1,000."

Eight of the 18 barriers did contain water, but we could only look inside two of them, which were only about 1/5 full. The rest were nailed shut with wood.

We reached out to Digney York, the company in charge of securing the construction permit, but they have not returned our calls. DPW said after KTVU’s investigation, it informed Digney York that it was not in compliance.

The barriers are also supposed to be locked or pinned together, which we found is often not the case.
And the same problem exists at other construction sites around the city.

Workers told us off camera they don't secure the barriers even though it's the law, because it makes them difficult to move them around, which of course is exactly the point.