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Owner rushes to shore up Lincoln Park building after crash

Duluth firefighters examine the scene of Tuesday’s collision between a DTA bus and a Chevy Trailblazer (background) which then hit the corner of the Bark Avenue building, forcing its evacuation. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com

The Duluth Transit Authority bus that crashed into a runaway SUV on Tuesday was carrying as many as two dozen people, said the DTA's top official.

"Somewhere around 20-25," General Manager Phil Pumphrey said on Wednesday. "I don't have the exact number."

The bus hit so hard it that vaulted the SUV into a building located along what is a busy intersection in Lincoln Park. The SUV struck a corner support beam made of cast iron.

"Broke it in two," said Maynard Soulier, owner of the building. "That post supports the corner."

Soulier was in a hurry to shore up the building, he said, so that Bark Avenue, the longtime business on the corner of 24th Avenue West and Third Street, could get back to work. By nightfall on the day of the crash, he'd buttoned up any holes to the outside.

"They're out of business," Soulier said of Bark Avenue. "We can't delay. We've got to get them in there as quick as we can."

Staffed with two groomers, Bark Avenue can see roughly 16 dogs and other pets in a day, said one of its employees on the day of the crash. The business and upstairs apartment were evacuated following the crash on Tuesday. Three people involved, including the driver of the SUV, were sent to nearby hospitals.

The Duluth Police Department had not yet completed reports and was unable to identify the three people hospitalized, it said on Wednesday.

Pumphrey said the DTA was insured for such crashes.

"We're still waiting to hear how people are doing," Pumphrey said, adding that the driver was not among the two injured aboard the DTA bus.

In a brief update, Duluth Police Lieutenant Mike Ceynowa said he suspected the injured people had been treated and released. All three individuals, including the driver of the SUV, were sent to local hospitals with "minor injuries," he said.

The female driver of the SUV reported to witnesses that her brakes went out while traveling down the steep grade of 24th Avenue West.

"The investigation continues into the mechanical question," Ceynowa said. "No drug or alcohol screens were done as neither was suspected of being used."

In its initial report of the crash on Tuesday, police said the bus was traveling east on Third Street, and that "it appears the passenger vehicle went through the red light and collided with the DTA bus."

Meanwhile, Soulier consulted an engineering firm to work up a temporary fix for the Bark Avenue building. A city inspector will need to approve the fix.

"Then, we'll work on getting it repaired (back) to what it was," Soulier said.

Pumphrey said the driver was taken off duty.

"Generally, they're shaken up," Pumphrey said. "Most people in that situation are and don't want to drive right away."

In 2015, a DTA driver was reassigned within the company following a deadly crash as the result of a sudden medical condition suffered by the driver. A 53-year-old passenger died after being thrown from the bus when it hit a construction barricade at a high rate of speed in downtown Duluth.

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