Scroll down for photos, taken Feb. 9, of the damage sustained by two homes and a truck as a result of the crash.
A 27-year-old woman driving a red Honda Civic was killed Thursday morning when her car and an AC Transit bus collided at Ashby Avenue near California Street. The bus and car then careened into a parked truck and two homes on the south side of Ashby, authorities report.
The woman was Kelli Zachery, who was driving to work at the IRS building at the time of the collision, according to the East Bay Times. Her father, Kelvin Zachery, is an AC Transit driver himself and has worked for the agency for 26 years, said the newspaper. Zachery also attended classes at Merritt College and Berkeley City College and hoped to become a nurse, he said.
“It was just a tragic loss for me and my family. I’m just putting everything in God’s hand right now,” Zachery told KPIX News. “This is the saddest day of my life.”
Sgt. Andrew Frankel, Berkeley Police Department spokesman, said the AC Transit bus, line 80, was westbound on Ashby and the car was southbound on California. The bus hit the driver’s side of the Honda. Zachery, who was alone in the car, died in the collision, he said. Neither the driver of the bus, nor its sole passenger, were injured and residents in the homes were not hurt either, said Frankel. The AC Transit driver will be screened for alcohol and drug use, which is standard in all accidents, according to Robert Lyles, a spokesman for the bus district.
Berkeley police received a call about the crash at 6:38 a.m. The Berkeley Police Department’s Fatal Accident Investigation Team is investigating the collision.
Southbound California Street has a stop sign at Ashby above a yellow sign that reads “cross traffic does not stop,” according to Google Maps Street View images reviewed by Berkeleyside.
Dale Reynolds said he and his wife were in their bedroom in their home in the 1500 block of Ashby — on the south side of the street just west of California Street — when they heard a loud crash, followed by two more loud crashes. Reynolds, who spoke to Berkeleyside’s Tracey Taylor at the scene, said he believed the bus hit the red car, then careened into his truck, and then hit his house and the house next door.
Reynolds’s front porch and door were damaged, he said, and he and his wife had to escape through the back. Police had not let them back inside as of shortly after 8 a.m.
As a result of the crash, there will be delays and detours on bus lines 80 and 81, according to AC Transit.
Berkeley police sent out an advisory saying Ashby Avenue, between Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Sacramento Street, was closed during the investigation. Police were not letting anyone through the area between Sacramento and King Street. The road was closed to vehicles from MLK, and both pedestrians and vehicles from King Street. Traffic was significantly impacted. (The road was reopened around 2:45 p.m.)
Local residents told Berkeleyside that Ashby is often “like a racetrack,” during the early-morning commute and that crashes happen frequently. A neighbor who declined to give his name said he had been aware of two fatalities in the area since he moved into the neighborhood.
A resident who said he lives near Ashby and Sacramento told Berkeleyside that dangerous driving was common in the area.
“Speed laws are never enforced on Ashby or Sacramento and reckless [driving] and texting while driving especially are very common,” he said in an email Thursday morning after the crash. He said, just this week, he had been walking with his daughter across Ashby at Mabel Street when “a car came east on Ashby at 40 miles an hour and ran the red light at full speed.” He said he had to pull his daughter out of the way to avoid being hit: “The driver and passenger in the speeding car were audibly yelling and laughing as they ran the red light.”
The AC Transit Board of Directors issued a note of condolence to the family of the driver who was killed:
“The Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District (AC Transit) wishes to extend our deepest condolences to the family of the driver involved in today’s tragic event. We will continue to work closely with the Berkeley Police Department as they investigate the circumstances of this collision. Please direct questions related the police investigation to the public information office of the Berkeley Police Department.
“The AC Transit Operator involved in today’s collision has been with the District since 2014. He is fully cooperating with the police investigation. AC Transit standard protocol requires that the Operator undergo drug and alcohol screening. Additionally, the Operator’s emotional recovery is of paramount concern to the entire AC Transit family, and therapeutic counseling has been provided.
“Please note, HIPPA regulations preclude AC Transit from releasing the names of individuals involved in any active investigation.”
This story was updated after publication due to the developing nature of events.