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Colorado Springs Metro drivers worry about safety after driver passes out on bus


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Colorado Springs Mountain Metro Transit bus drivers are raising concerns to KRDO13 Investigates about their safety after a driver passed out on the floor of his bus during a medical emergency.

Driver Gary Turks believes the medical emergency was connected to carbon monoxide poisoning after bloodwork from the hospital showed high levels of the gas in his blood that night.

On November 8, Turks said he complained to multiple supervisors about smelling fumes on two buses he drove that day. He tells KRDO13 Investigates he was told he could either drive the buses or go home without pay.

KRDO13 Investigates obtained video from inside the bus, showing Turks driving during his ten-hour shift, even as multiple passengers also noticed the strong smell.

"It smells like lighter fluid or something right around here," said a passenger on one of his last routes.

Turks said he doesn't remember finishing his last route or dropping passengers off. Video shows him driving in the middle of the road and calling dispatch to say he was lost and didn't know where he was. He eventually comes to a stop at the side of the road and slumps over the steering wheel before throwing up on the floor of his bus.

The video shows him trying to leave his seat without realizing he is still buckled in. He said he started to hallucinate, thinking he had crashed the bus and killed his passengers. Once he figures out how to leave the bus, he walks outside, looking for his passengers.

"I vaguely remember seeing the bus flipped over on its side and watching these tires spin," Turks said. "That's how bad I was hallucinating. I remember crying for the passengers. I couldn't find them. I think that's probably the most gratifying part, that I didn't kill anybody."

He eventually makes his way back to the bus and passes out on the floor for more than 15 minutes before a supervisor arrives.

"You okay? What's going on?" Said the supervisor. "I told him about the fumes," Turks is heard mumbling on the video. "The fumes? Gotcha, gotcha," the supervisor responded.

Turks was then taken to the hospital, where he says doctors told him they found high levels of carbon monoxide in his blood. According to hospital documents, the tests show he had a value of 5.3 on a range of 0 to 5.

According to Mountain Metro, drivers are not city employees but contracted through a company named TransDev.  Mountain Metro also tells KRDO13 Investigates the maintenance of their buses is also contracted out to TransDev.

"The feeling around work is, especially with our supervisors, that our drivers are crying over non-issues," Turks said. "But these are very big issues."

KRDO13 Investigates reached out to TransDev by phone and email about the concerns but we never heard back.

"It could have killed him and it could have killed a passenger," said Courtney Turks, Garry's wife and also a Metro bus driver. "He could have killed somebody just crossing the street. We almost lost him. He's a father of five and we were married 20 years, and literally one night at work almost took him from us."

The driver's union president, Margie Sullivan, said multiple drivers have complained about leaking fumes on old buses for years. Turks claims the problem is only on old buses built from 2006 to 2009, but he said management at TransDev still forces drivers to use them.

"They need to take those old buses and rid them," his wife said. "They need to be gone. You are putting your drivers in danger. You're putting your passengers in danger every day."

After this incident, Mountain Metro Transit tells KRDO13 Investigates it took the old buses out of service and tested them for carbon monoxide.

"The safety of our drivers and riders is a top priority for Mountain Metropolitan Transit (MMT). When we were notified of a driver illness possibly related to carbon monoxide (CO) leaks in our older buses, MMT pulled the buses that were of concern out of service. Third-party safety specialists were brought in to do thorough safety evaluations with a focus on carbon monoxide in the cabin of the buses, with multiple CO detection devices. CO levels detected in the buses were well below the World Health Organization acceptable standard of 9-10ppm for no more than 8 hours, with much higher exposures being required to pose a major health risk. The highest reading that was recorded on any of these buses was 1ppm.

There are a few other minor repairs such as coolant leaks that were found during the inspections that are being corrected; however, no major exhaust leaks were found. MMT is looking into the possibility of putting CO detection devices in these buses to make sure that levels continue to be safe for drivers and passengers."

Mountain Metropolitan Transit

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Quinn Ritzdorf

Quinn is a reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about him here.


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