NUUANU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The driver of a city bus and five passengers were taken to Honolulu hospitals after a large tree fell on the bus in the town-bound lanes of the Pali Highway Wednesday morning. The ironwood, estimated to be 60 feet tall and about two feet in diameter, also smashed the roof and windows of a rental car with two occupants, but neither was hurt.
Oahu Transit Services, which operates The Bus, identified the driver as 62 year old John Pedro of Kailua. He was taken to Queen's Medical Center in serious condition. One of the passengers also had serious injuries. Injuries to the others were described as minor.
"There were some shards of glass in people's faces and legs. Nothing severe. The driver was the one who took the hit," said a motorist who was in a small car behind the bus but chose to remain anonymous.
Maui resident Kaiwa Meyer was driving the rented sedan hit by the falling tree. "As we were coming out of the tunnel the big tree fell on the back of our rental car. And then the bus hit us on the passenger side and was going down, and so it was kind of scary. Very scary. It's a miracle that we are alive actually," Meyer said.
Both the bus and car were traveling toward Honolulu. They had just passed through the Pali Tunnels when the tree fell. The bus swerved across the median into the Kailua-bound lanes. It traveled at least 200 yards before coming to a stop on the shoulder. Witnesses were amazed it did not crash into on-coming traffic.
"It's unbelievable that traveling down the Kailua bound lanes that we avoided some serious problems him not hitting anything else ... possibly even a fatality. Lucky," concluded Honolulu police Sergeant Keith Marini.
OTS told Hawaii News Now Pedro has been driving a city bus for 36 years and is near retirement. The company says all of its employees are wishing him a speedy recovery.
Police, OTS, and Pedro's daughter all relayed unconfirmed reports a passenger jumped up and applied the brakes to stop the bus while Pedro was unconscious. No one had the passengers name because shortly after the accident he disappeared, perhaps on a second city bus that picked up the stranded passengers.
"I'm way surprised that it wasn't worse. I'm way surprised," said the witness who was in a small car behind the bus.
The incident slowed traffic in both directions for a few hours, but the tree had been removed and all lanes of traffic were open by 12:45 p.m.
An OTS manager told Hawaii News Now in his 30 years with the company he has never seen an accident like this. The front of the bus around the windshield was demolished.