- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Two Port Authority of Allegheny County bus drivers could be fired if investigators confirm that their “joking” and “reckless” behavior caused one of them to crash after they appeared to be racing and bumping into one another on Interstate 279, a spokesman said.

Transit agency spokesman Jim Ritchie said surveillance video inside one of the buses appears to show the drivers, one driven by a male the other a female, gesturing at one another moments before the female driver’s bus crashed through a guide rail and rolled 100 feet down an embankment from Interstate 279 on Monday afternoon.

“Both appeared to be driving in a reckless fashion. We know that from eyewitness accounts and on vehicle surveillance video,” Ritchie said. “They were traveling down the highway together in a reckless fashion gesturing to each other through the windows things that were not appropriate.” Ritchie said the gestures appeared to be “playful” and “joking,” not malicious.

Port Authority police believe the buses hit or rubbed up against one another before the female driver crashed. The agency is conducting an internal investigation in addition to the police investigation, which could result in criminal charges as early as Wednesday, Ritchie said.

The male was driving a 40-foot, 14-ton Gillig bus that was equipped with security cameras. The female was driving an older 35-foot bus without cameras. The video from the male driver’s bus shows him getting out of his vehicle briefly, then driving away without reporting the other bus having crashed, Ritchie said.

Neither driver was being identified while the investigation continued.

Stephen Palonis, the president of the drivers’ union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85, said he was still gathering information and hadn’t seen the surveillance videos.

“Obviously, I’m disappointed with what transpired, if that’s the case,” Palonis said in response to the agency’s version of events. “The question that keeps coming up, why would a person leave the scene of an accident; we’re trying to ascertain that answer right now.”

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