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Illegal Drug Use by Bus Driver in Crash Denied

August 22, 1986|TED VOLLMER | Times Staff Writer

The rookie driver fired by the Southern California Rapid Transit District after the bus she was driving flipped over on the Hollywood Freeway contends that she was taking acne medicine, not illegal drugs, at the time of the July 31 accident, her attorney said Thursday.

Attorney Daniel Behesnilian added that Shirley Riojas has never been formally fired by the bus district, despite claims by RTD management that she has.

"She has been terminated from the district," RTD spokesman Rick Jager said late Thursday in response.

Behesnilian said Riojas would not formally contest her firing because the district was within its rights to dismiss her as a probationary employee. She had been hired as a trainee six weeks before the freeway accident in which she and 25 others were injured.

Even if she has been fired, the attorney said, Riojas will be seeking worker's compensation benefits stemming from the accident because "the manner in which she was trained was so inadequate." He added that unnamed RTD officials who indicated that Riojas would be fired after it was disclosed that she had tested positive for drug use had made it difficult for his client to find a job.

Behesnilian said doctors had detected no illegal drugs in Riojas' system after blood and urine tests at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center after the accident. He added that she did test positive for some unspecified drugs and found out that she was taking tetracycline, an antibiotic.

"It was medication she was taking for acne," Behesnilian said.

Contending that the accident did not stem from drug use, Behesnilian said, "We feel that the RTD has been trying to shift the blame for their own mismanagement."

Riojas' attorney said that the former trainee was inexperienced on the type of bus she was driving and that "several times when she asked questions (of her line instructor, Raul Lewenberg), he appeared to be asleep."

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