The shattered glass, the tangled metal, the splintered fiberglass, the mangled front of the MBTA bus swallowing the rear of a tractor-trailer near Dudley Square — clearly, this is how Hollywood does a bus crash. Plus, Sandra Bullock was in the neighborhood.
So the question was obvious, posed over and over by people gathered on Warren Street on Monday: “Is this a movie?”
It was not, actually. Bullock, star of “Speed” and “Crash,” was around the corner and out of sight, filming a buddy-cop comedy with Melissa McCarthy in the shuttered precinct that once housed Police District B-2. But director Paul Feig, of “Bridesmaids” fame, had not called for a bus crash.
This was an accident, real, unscripted, and terrifying for driver and passengers, none of whom was seriously hurt, though about 15 were treated at hospitals as a precaution, authorities said.
Still, the crash of an MBTA bus into a parked movie trailer caused spectacular damage to one of the jewels of the T fleet: a $915,000 gas-electric hybrid, 60 feet long, articulated in the middle, and purchased in 2010 with federal stimulus funds.
After the bus had been pulled free from the mostly unscathed trailer, its windshield dangled in spiderwebbed pieces and its digital destination sign hung at an angle; the front passenger door all but obliterated.
Transit Police detectives could not yet say what caused the accident but were reviewing footage from the bus’s cameras, Superintendent in Chief Joseph O’Connor said.
MBTA officials also could not say whether the bus was totaled. The rear 57 or so feet looked unharmed, but the skin needed to be peeled back to determine the extent of structural damage, said Jeffrey Gonneville, the T’s chief mechanical officer.
The bus, operating on Route 28, had just left Dudley Station and was heading south on Warren Street where it curves around the Boston Public Library’s Dudley branch. A bus length ahead, a 45-foot trailer, serving as a camera truck for the nearby film shoot, occupied the parking lane in front of Roxbury Municipal Court, adjacent to the library.
The right side of the bus’s face rammed the rear left corner of the trailer, causing the bus to crumple slightly around that corner of the trailer.
The trailer was legally parked, with an array of signs noting that the block between Warren Place and Kearsarge Avenue was reserved through July 12 for movie parking. The trailer was alone — all the other film trailers were around the corner in the old police lot — but should not have surprised the driver, who had already passed the trailer Monday morning on her first run.
The 33-year-old operator, a five-year MBTA veteran who had driven this route since at least 2010, had no “preventable” accidents on her record, T spokesman Joe Pesaturo said.
The MBTA declined to identify the driver, and her union declined to comment, citing the investigation. She was evaluated and released by a hospital and also examined at the MBTA’s medical clinic, mandatory after an accident, Pesaturo said.
Passengers interviewed in the aftermath said the crash came without warning, hurling them forward. Some were thrown into seats; others tossed into the aisle. As some began to rise and others steeled themselves on the floor, the driver, looking shocked, peeled herself from her seat and began checking on the passengers, asking if they were OK.
Just then, the bus issued a loud hiss, startling passengers. “When I heard that sound, I just wanted to get out as fast as possible because I was worried about an explosion,” said Charles Gordon, 55, sitting on the curb and rubbing a sore knee. “People were screaming,” Gordon said.
A member of the movie production team was inside the trailer when the bus struck. He was taken to a hospital, but coworkers said he did not appear to be seriously injured.
Deborah Simmrin, publicist for the movie production, said the accident did not disrupt filming.
The crash drew an immediate crowd, with several reporters there to cover the arraignment of state Representative Carlos Henriquez on charges that he assaulted a woman; Henriquez pleaded not guilty. Ambulances began arriving within minutes, and Boston Emergency Medical Services ultimately transported as many as 15 people, including 10 placed in braces on backboards as a precaution for injuries, said Jennifer Mehigan, a Boston EMS spokeswoman.
Across the street, business owner Dwayne Johnson, his windows and door open, said he heard what sounded like revving before a boom, without the screech associated with brakes. That might indicate the bus hit the trailer while the driver was avoiding traffic on her left side, where Warren Street and Harrison Avenue merge at the curve.
“This little curve there is a little dangerous,” said Johnson, owner of the computer firm Geekz n’ the Hood, expressing relief that no one was seriously hurt. He considered the crowd, arraignment, and movie. “Truly some things going on in Dudley this morning,” he said.
After the ambulances had departed, dozens of onlookers remained, some for hours, drawn by the destruction, the police tape, the flashing lights.
Once investigators were finished, MBTA workers and a towing company needed nearly 90 minutes to free the bus from the trailer and tow it away.
As the crew toiled, the crowd ebbed and flowed around the sagging police tape, offering commentary. “Look at that! Smashed the whole bus up.” “Anybody know if the driver’s OK?”
Nose in the air, the bus finally pulled away at 1:05 p.m., towed by a 75-ton wrecker called in from Lawrence, followed by an MBTA work truck and a Transit Police officer on a motorcycle. An array of lenses captured the exit — television cameras, cellphones, point-and-shoots — but no one was filming for a movie.