Georgetown faculty and staff in the Harris administrative building were rudely surprised yesterday morning to learn that a driverless D.C. Circulator bus left an employee injured after it rolled backward and knocked a large hole through the wall of the first floor. The Harris building, located near the intersection of Wisconsin Ave and 35th St., houses a variety of University administrative offices.
The parked bus rolled backward, smashed a parked minivan and broke through into the offices of the Center for Intercultural Education and Development. Joe Kinzey, the building engineer, said that a CIED employee named Maria – presumably Maria Pryshlak, the only Maria in the CIED office – was taken to the hospital. According to University Spokesperson Julie Green Bataille, Pryshlak was under observation for the night but suffered no serious injuries.
Kinzey said that the damage was minimal, and not much more repair would be needed beyond re-bricking the wall.
“[The bus] hit between two columns,” he said. “No structural damage at all.”
Circulator buses often park across the street from the Harris Building, according to Andrew Phillips, who works for University Information Services. Pointing to the bus stop, across the street and up the block from the building, Phillips traced a curved path down the hill to a neat, square hole surrounded by firefighters. Since the stop is at the end of the line, he said, drivers often set the parking break using the bathroom.
The District Department of Transportation, which owns the Circulator service, said that an official investigation into the accident had begun.
Jack Hoadley, whose office in the Health Policy Institute is only 40 feet from where the back of the bus broke through, said that he felt a tremor on impact. Phillips, however, who works in a different part of the building, was not aware of the accident and did not see the red bus sticking out the side of the building until he evacuated.
The bus remained undamaged except for the back window and side grills.
“They thought they would have to tow it and they were actually able to drive it out,” Phillips said.
The driver has been placed on administrative leave pending drug-testing results and an investigation, according to the DDOT press release. Bataille said that Georgetown, which leases the building, had not yet considered whether to solicit monetary compensation. The building will be re-opened to employees today.