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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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U vehicles investigated

By Rita Totten , Staff Writer

Commuter Services came under scrutiny after a former professor fell out of one of its shuttles and died Thursday.

Alma Allred, director of Commuter Services, said his department is not sure exactly what happened when the woman, who used to be a professor at the U, fell from a shuttle turning left onto Mario Capecchi Drive from North Campus Drive.

“We can’t rule out mechanical malfunction8212;those things happen,” Allred said.

The Utah Highway Patrol sent inspectors to check the shuttle Friday. They couldn’t find anything obviously wrong with it, said U Police Chief Scott Folsom. The shuttle had been serviced just a week before, he said.

Police impounded the shuttle, and Commuter Services took a shuttle of the same make and model off the road.

Alyssa Spencer, who was riding the shuttle at the time of the accident, talked to the U Police at the scene to fill out the incident report and said the driver wasn’t at fault. The shuttle was turning onto Mario Capecchi Drive only after making a full stop at a red light, she said. After the woman fell out of the shuttle and paramedics were on scene, the driver asked all the passengers if the doors had been open while he was driving8212;they weren’t8212;and tested them to see how they could’ve possibly opened, she said.

It didn’t take much to open the doors8212;he pushed his hand against them and they gave way, Spencer said.

Most of the passengers chose to walk the rest of the way to their destination instead of getting back on the shuttle, she said.

Spencer and Lauren McKay, another passenger who witnessed the incident, said they are hesitant to ride the shuttles again.

“I’m definitely not going to get on unless there’s enough space for me to sit down,” Spencer said.

Ken Searles, associate director of commuter services, said his department has had no issues with malfunctioning doors in the past.

Once a year, shuttles undergo a state emissions test as well as routine maintenance at scheduled mile intervals, Searles said.

U Police and UHP have so far cleared the driver of any wrongdoing, though he is on paid leave until routine drug and alcohol screenings come back, standard practice after an incident, Allred said.

Drivers operating campus shuttles must have a commercial driver’s license. U drivers who already have their licenses undergo two weeks of training8212;about 80 hours8212;before they are allowed to drive campus shuttles, Searles said. Without a license, training can take four weeks.

Drivers receive ongoing driver training throughout their employment and often have their performances evaluated during a ride-along inspection, Searles said.

Defensive driving training is mandated for all drivers every two years or, in the event of an accident, the driver involved will complete the course immediately following the incident, Searles said.

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Mike Mangum/The Daily Utah Chronicle

The campus shuttles are being looked at after a former professor fell out of one and died. The shuttles undergo regular maintenance at mile intervals and state tests once a year.

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