3:24 PM: Late last night, we reported on a medical emergency that left a RapidRide C Line bus stalled on the southbound Alaskan Way Viaduct and sent its driver to the hospital. As promised, we followed up with Metro this morning. The driver, they just told us, did not make it. Here’s the full news release that resulted from our inquiry:
A Metro Transit operator suffered a fatal heart attack late Thursday while driving a RapidRide C Line on the Alaskan Way Viaduct, just south of Columbia Street. Passengers on board were able to help bring the bus to a safe stop and call 9-1-1. No passengers were injured.
The incident was reported about 11:17 p.m. The driver, Sam Williams, 63, was traveling south when he said he was experiencing a heart attack and became semiconscious. Passengers noticed the bus swerving at slow speeds and quickly rushed to Williams’ aid. One passenger was able to help bring the bus to a stop in the outside lane – about six inches from the viaduct’s guardrail. Other passengers helped unbuckle the driver and remove him from his seat, and began performing CPR. A retired Auburn police officer who was driving behind the bus stopped his vehicle and helped provide aid until first responders arrived.
Williams was pronounced deceased after being transported to Harborview Medical Center.
“Those who ride Metro Transit know there is a sense of community on the bus, between passengers and drivers,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “When an incident occurs, people step up to help one another. The passengers on Sam Williams’ route exemplify the best of who we are as a region.”
“Our drivers care deeply about their passengers’ safety and comfort. We are grateful to the passengers who rushed to help Sam as soon as it was clear that he needed medical help. Sam will be missed by his friends, family, coworkers, and those who rode on his bus each day.”
“Many of us are grieving today over the loss of Sam Williams, a dedicated Metro operator for the last six years,” said Metro General Manager Rob Gannon. “I thank the passengers whose quick action to safely stop the bus prevented this from becoming an even greater tragedy.”
Williams started as a part-time operator in 2010. He achieved full-time status in 2014.
4:32 PM: We’ve learned more about Mr. Williams thanks to commenter Kelly, who informs us he was a juggler with the famous Flying Karamazov Brothers troupe. We’ve been researching his background and among other things found this podcast interview published earlier this month.
9:50 PM: Photo of Mr. Williams added above (courtesy John Cornicello). There are more tributes to him in the comments below, as well as a link to this video of a memorable TV appearance one commenter mentioned – Mr. Williams and the other Flying Karamazov Brothers teaching “Mister Rogers” how to juggle. On the group’s Facebook page, this tribute:
We are heartbroken to tell you that Sam Williams, aka Smerdyakov Karamazov, has gone on and joined the choir invisible. It was never publicly admitted, but we can all admit that he’s always been the funniest K, and his passing leaves a major hole in the world. Today is a very sad day. RIP.
Give someone a hug and tell them you love them.