Motorists and passers-by looked on in shock as the bus crashed into a lamp post, trapping people inside and injuring a number of people on the walkway.
The memories of the fatal bus crash at Wellington Quay in Dublin earlier this year were quick to come to mind as gardaí and paramedics worked to help the injured passengers to safety.
Traffic on the city’s quays was brought to a standstill as ambulances, fire brigades and garda vehicles rushed to the scene opposite the clock tower.
Restrictions remained in place on the city’s main thoroughfare for a couple of hours as gardaí cordoned off the scene and ambulances ferried the injured to hospital.
The numbers of injured quickly rose from 12 to 19 as the morning passed, but all except one of those were later discharged.
Eye witnesses said the single-deck number 5 bus had just pulled in and stopped at the bus stop when it suddenly jolted forwards, mounting the footpath and careering into the lamppost.
Passengers were thrown forward by the impact as they prepared to disembark.
The bus driver escaped without major injury but was later treated in hospital for shock.
The scene inside the AXA insurance branch on the quay front was akin to a hospital emergency department as paramedics attended those injured as they dashed out of the way of the bus.
One man, Simon McAuley, who looked visibly shaken, sat clutching two-year-old Scott. He described the scene: “I saw the last few people getting onto the number 2 bus so I was running to make it when I heard a revving noise and seen it coming for me. I just pushed Scott into the window of a shop and saw the bus hitting the pole. I’m just shaken up, I nearly lost him,” he said.
Another man assisting some injured women said it was difficult to understand how the crash happened. “I was passing by and I heard a ferocious bang,” Jim Hennessey explained. “These ladies were very lucky, if the pole was not there it could have been a lot worse,” he added.
Minister for Transport Martin Cullen paid tribute to the speedy assistance of all emergency personnel on the ground. He was monitoring the situation and would be forwarded the findings of the ongoing investigations.
Local sergeant John McDonald said it remained unclear why the bus mounted the footpath. “At the moment we’re measuring the scene and trying to establish exactly what happened,” Sgt McDonald said. “We can’t say if it’s the same as what happened in Dublin until the investigations are finished” he said.
“At the end of the day our job is to save lives, so that’s what we put our energy and resources into,” assistant fire chief Willie Doyle said. “We don’t know yet in the confusion what happened, but at least one woman was badly injured with head injuries.”
“We’d like to thank the people of AXA for the help in providing covered accommodation for the walking wounded,” he added.
Bus Eireann is providing a counselling service for staff, passengers and others affected by the incident. “The company will also provide any other assistance which may be required by persons involved or affected,” it said in a statement.
The company has set up a special telephone line at its Waterford office, which can be contacted on 051-317841.