A 35-year-old bus driver died early Thursday after his vehicle crashed into a tree in Willowbrook, officials said.
Steve Cook had just dropped off the last passenger on his overnight route between downtown Los Angeles and Willowbrook when the collision occurred about 12:45 a.m., said Helen Gilstrap, a Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokeswoman.
The crash took place at Willowbrook Avenue and El Segundo Boulevard in the unincorporated neighborhood south of Watts. It took firefighters 45 minutes and use of the jaws of life to pull Cook from the bus, Gilstrap said. Cook, who was single and lived in Los Angeles, died at King/Drew Medical Center, she said.
A native of Birmingham, Ala., Cook joined the MTA as a bus operator three years ago, Gilstrap said.
"He was the sweetest person you'd ever want to meet," said Sonja Owens, his supervisor. "He enjoyed working and wanted to make something of himself."
The California Highway Patrol is investigating the cause of the collision.
MTA officials did not know how many bus drivers had been killed while on duty.
"This really is a rare and sad occasion for us," Gilstrap said.