3 Dead, Dozens Injured, and Lawsuits Filed in Two Years - Is RIPTA Safe?

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


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In the past two years, three people have been killed by Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) buses and dozens have been injured. Now a lawsuit in the 2015 death of nine-year-old Ani Emdjian raises serious concerns about RIPTA’s safety and training of its drivers.


The suit field against RIPTA, and the driver of the bus, Eric Seaberg,  alleges that both were negligent in the death of the nine-year-old girl last year.

“At all times relevant hereto Seaberg owed a duty to Ani Emdjian to operate the bus with due care. Nevertheless, Seaberg breached his duty owed to Ani Emdjian by operating the bus in a negligent manner and striking her. As a direct and proximate result of Seaberg's negligence as aforesaid, Ani Emdjian died,” says the suit filed by Max Wistow of Wistow, Barylick, Sheehan & Loveley, PC.

Wistow is the State of Rhode Island's attorney in lawsuits to recover funds relating to the 38 Studios bankruptcy.

The suit goes on to allege, “At all times pertinent hereto, Defendant RIPTA had a duty to exercise reasonable care in hiring, training and supervising its employees, including but not limited to Seaberg, in the safe operation of a bus.”

RIPTA Defends Record

Repeated efforts by GoLocalProv to receive accident reports and data were blocked in 2015 by RIPTA citing legal issues and denying access to public records.


“We can't provide details on every accident -- that answer came from our legal department and is something I can't speak to,” said RIPTA spokesperson Barbara Polichetti on Tuesday.

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RIPTA Chair and Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian

“We're heavily monitored. I do know we're not an outlier on safety.  One accident is too many and this is important to us.  Safety is the core value that drives everything else,” added Polichetti.

Besides the death of Emdjian, Bobbie Moore was killed by a bus on Broad Street in May  2015 and U.S. Marshall Frank McKnight was killed by a bus in June 2014.

On Monday, a RIPTA bus crashed into the bus shelter on the South Main Street at the entry of the East Side Thayer Street bus tunnel.

Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian and Chairman of RIPTA told GoLocal, “Monday's accident is under investigation. There was nothing to indicate that there was anything wrong with the operation of the bus, and it doesn't appear that the driver had a medical episode. The driver is on administrative leave pending the investigation.” 

“I think if you were to look at benchmarking transit agencies that are our size -- there's on average one [accident] every 25,000 miles. That could be as small as a cracked mirror, or a fender bender. At RIPTA, we drive 32,000 miles a day.  We transport 70,000 passengers a day," said Avedisian.  

He did speak to one of the deaths, “I think more can be done in terms of safety, including outreach and videos for passengers. One accident that is on the list was a woman chasing a bus. Don't try and get the bus to stop.  It's a heavy piece of equipment to stop on a dime.  That's when things can go wrong.” 


Related Slideshow: RIPTA Crashes - 2016

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May 9, 2016

A RIPTA bus crashed into the western entrance of the East Side Trolley Tunnel by College Hill on Monday afternoon.

Witnesses say it looked serious and nine were injured.

"When I got there, it had already happened, but it looked pretty bad," said local artist Philippe Lejeune, who was on the scene.  "There were ambulances taking people away."

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March 1, 2016

Four passengers and a bus driver were injured when a RIPTA bus crashed into a street lamp at Francis and Gaspee Streets by Providence Place Mall.

The crash was reported at about 2:11 p.m. at Francis and Gaspee streets.

The bus knocked down a street lamp. The RIPTA driver was cited for the accident.

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Jan 25, 2016

A Rhode Island Public Transit Authority bus crashed into a building in Warwick, sending three people to the hospital. The crash destroyed a commercial building and those business are still displaced today. 

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September 13, 2015

On September 13, 2015, a RIPTA driver was arrested for disobeying the orders of a Providence Police officer.

The bus driver, according to Providence Police, was arrested for failing to comply with an Providence Police’s order to move his bus.

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May 20, 2015

A woman was killed when she was trapped under a bus on Broad Street.

Bobbie Moore died three months from injuries after the accident.

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March 26, 2015

9 year-old Ani Emdjian was killed when she was hit by a RIPTA bus on Smith Street.

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May 29, 2014

A RIPTA transit bus struck Frank McKnight while he was walking in a crosswalk from the Federal District Court building to the John O. Pastore building.


I am deeply saddened to announce the passing of federal Court Security Officer Frank McKnight, 69, of North Kingstown. Officer McKnight passed away at Rhode Island Hospital at 6:30 this evening. Officer McKnight’s family was by his side.

A retired North Kingstown police officer with 25 years of service, having retired at the rank of Lieutenant, Officer McKnight was a court security officer for the past 13 years, most recently assigned to the U.S. District Court building.

Officer McKnight was a dedicated, career law enforcement officer and public servant who came to work daily eager and ready to serve, brandishing a positive attitude and always with a smile. His distinguished career will be heralded. His absence will be greatly felt by all that he worked with and served.


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