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Heartbroken Father Mourns Daughter Killed In Berkeley Bus Crash

BERKELEY (CBS SF) – The father of the young woman killed in the early morning AC Transit bus collision in Berkeley Thursday spoke about the heartbreak of arriving to the scene of the fatal crash and learning the tragic news.

Kelvin Zachery told KPIX 5 he was listening to the morning news when his ears perked up.

"I just had a real gut feeling from the description of the vehicle, especially the color," explained Zachery.

At around 6:40 a.m., a red Honda collided with an AC Transit bus at the intersection of California Street and Ashby Avenue.

The location of the crash is less than a mile from Zachery's home. He was one of the first people to arrive on the scene.

AC Transit fatal bus crash in Berkeley
AC Transit fatal bus crash in Berkeley (CBS)

His 27-year-old daughter Kelli drives the same type of car and had just left home for work.

When Zachery arrived at the scene, a cruel reality set in.

"It was just a tragic loss for me and my family. I'm just putting everything in God's hands right now," said Zachery. "This is the saddest day of my life."

Kelli Zachery was on her way to work as a nurse when the accident happened.

Investigators determined that the Honda was traveling south on California Street when it hit the AC Transit bus, which was heading west on Ashby Avenue, Berkeley police Sgt. Andrew Frankel said.

Frankel said there's no stop sign on westbound Ashby Avenue, the direction the bus was traveling, but there is a stop sign on southbound California Street, the direction the Honda was traveling.

Investigators haven't yet determined if the Honda driver stopped at the intersection, according to Frankel.

The force of the collision sent both vehicles crashing into a parked car and then into a nearby house, Frankel said.

"Nobody should bury their children,said Zachery. Children are supposed to bury their parents."

Kelli Zachery, who was driving alone in her car, died at the scene. No one else was injured in the crash, but neighbors said it sounded like an earthquake.

"I felt the boom, but I didn't think it was a big, massive accident like what I just saw," area resident Erica Noble said.

The area was closed for hours and police investigated the fatal crash. Ashby Avenue between King and Sacramento streets reopened to all traffic shortly before 3 p.m.

AC Transit spokesman Robert Lyles said the bus driver has been with the transit agency since 2014 and will undergo drug and alcohol testing, which he said is standard protocol for a driver who's been involved in a collision. But he said there's no indication at this time that the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

He said the driver "is understandably quite upset" about the fatal collision.

Lyles said the driver will be in an employee assistance program for at least three days during which he will receive therapeutic counseling.

Lyles said Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 regulations preclude AC Transit from releasing the bus driver's name.

Lyles said, "The Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District wishes to extend our deepest condolences to the family of the driver involved in today's tragic event."

Zachery said if anything, he empathizes with the bus driver.

He also works for AC Transit. As a veteran driver, he knows his coworker is struggling with the tragedy too.

"Anytime there's any accident involving AC Transit, I feel for my brothers and sisters out there. They're doing a tremendous job," said Zachery.

His only solace? That last night before going to bed his daughter said she loved him.

"I saw her last night, prior to coming in from work, prior to going to bed, so I did get to say goodbye to her," said Zachery, taking in a deep breath.

Lyles said the bus agency will continue to work closely with Berkeley police as they investigate the collision.

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