Bus driver taken to hospital after transformer vault explodes nearby in Westwood [Updated]
An underground electrical transformer vault exploded Tuesday in Westwood near the UCLA campus, propelling a manhole cover into a city bus and sending the driver to the hospital, Los Angeles city fire officials said.
The explosion, which occurred near the intersection of Westwood Boulevard and Weyburn Avenue at about 9:25 a.m., sent the metal plate flying into the back of the bus, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
The driver of the bus was taken to the hospital and treated for a "stress reaction" to the incident, said MTA spokesman Marc Littman.
The explosion startled residents and workers in the densely packed district.
[Updated at 12:15 p.m.: Elaine Schmidt, a UCLA spokeswoman who works in the same building as the Bank of America branch on the block where the blast took place, said it "felt like a large truck had landed on top of the building."
"We heard this big boom," Schmidt said, noting she looked out a window and saw a "a big plume of fire and brown smoke coming from the street."
Schmidt said she could see the damaged bus and parts from the vehicle strewn about. She said she also saw the bus driver, who ran from his vehicle and put up traffic cones around the area to stop traffic.
"He looked pretty shook up," Schmidt said. "It was remarkable because he was probably deafened by the explosion."
Windows at the Bank of America branch on Westwood Boulevard were blown out, Schmidt said, adding that the explosion caused many workers in the building to quickly file from their offices, some of them concerned a terrorist attack had taken place.
UCLA officials said the explosion caused a short power interruption, and that emergency generators started running as backup.
Other than the bus driver, there were no immediate reports of injuries.]
Joyce Croker, a manager at the UCLA Extension offices a few blocks from the underground Department of Water and Power vault, said the explosion sounded like a “really loud crack that we actually thought was a lightning strike.”
Windows shook, lights temporarily went off in her office, and it appeared the power also was cut off in nearby businesses for a brief time, Croker said.
She added that several streets in Westwood have been blocked by police.
The DWP will conduct an investigation into what caused the explosion.
-- Kurt Streeter
Photo: Los Angeles City Fire Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department officials investigate at the site of an electrical explosion that damaged a Metro bus. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times