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Bus crashes into runaway SUV in Lincoln Park

Emergency workers move the driver of the Chevy Trailblazer that collided with a DTA bus at the intersection of North 24th Avenue West and Third Street on Tuesday morning. After colliding with the bus, the Trailblazer hit the Bark Avenue Pet Grooming & Supplies building. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com

A Duluth Transit Authority bus crashed into a runaway SUV early Tuesday in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Duluth, sending three people to the hospital and totaling the SUV, which ricocheted into a two-story building at the corner of 24th Avenue West and Third Street.

The crash destabilized the building and caused first responders to evacuate Bark Avenue, a pet grooming business. The driver of the SUV told witnesses her brakes had gone out as she was traveling south down 24th Avenue West.

She was transported to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, said a Duluth Police Department news release shortly after the crash, which occurred just before 9 a.m. Two passengers on the bus were also transported to local hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

The bus was headed east on Third Street when it T-boned the passenger side of the SUV at the intersection, which is controlled by stoplights. The SUV had gone through the red light, the police said.

“We were in the house and heard a loud boom,” said Colleen McLaughlin, 37, who lives next door to Bark Avenue. McLaughlin said she checked on the bus to make sure everyone was OK, then went to the aid of the driver of the SUV.

Duluth firefighters examine the scene of Tuesday’s collision. (Steve Kuchera / DNT)

“She said she lost her brakes coming down 24th Avenue,” said McLaughlin, who was among several people to report the crash to 911. After doing so, McLaughlin called the driver’s fiance to alert him to the incident.

“She was all alone,” McLaughlin said. “I know I’d want someone to call for me.”

The DTA declined to comment on the crash until further investigation was completed. The police said identifications of the victims would be made available on Wednesday.

The crash drew a large police, fire and ambulance response. In being knocked into the building, the SUV plowed over a fire hydrant, sending it farther down 24th Avenue. The bike rack on the bus was knocked off the front and laid in pieces a quarter block away.

The impact caved in the passenger side of the SUV, a Chevrolet Trailblazer, and dislodged the windshield of the bus.

Karen Eggers got to work at Bark Avenue at the crack of dawn, she said. A 15-year employee at the longstanding business, she was in the basement when she heard the crash. There were 10 dogs at the groomer. She was cleaning up broken glass inside the building when firefighters came in telling her to evacuate.  

“They were saying ‘get out,’ because the building wasn’t stable,” she said. “I grabbed my appointment book and my phone and we got the dogs out of there.”

Several dogs were in an exterior kennel at the back of the building. One, a cocker spaniel, was placed in Eggers’ vehicle — having been shaved and in the middle of a bath when the crash happened.

“He was in the tub,” Eggers said. “We do a shave, bath and finishing touches. He wasn’t done yet.”

John Gebhardt, 57, lives in nearby Midtown Manor and was one of several onlookers who arrived at the crash. He remarked at the damage it caused.

“Look at the drive axle against the building,” he said before noticing a large crack in the wall where the SUV hit. “It took out the wall. Oh my gosh. I hope she’s OK.”