By Adam Nichols and Jeff Mays
HARLEM — Scaffolding on a Harlem building hurt 18 people when it collapsed on top of a city bus Tuesday, police and FDNY officials said.
The accident happened at about 9:30 a.m. at 301 West 125th St., near Frederick Douglass Boulevard.
Police said about 30 people were on board the bus, a BX15 that was headed to the Bronx. Eight passengers were taken to St. Luke's hospital, police said.
Two police officers were also treated for minor injuries suffered as they dug in the rubble looking for injured people, an NYPD spokesman said. The other casualties were treated at the scene.
Sasha Chavkin, 28, from Harlem, was on board the bus.
"We'd pulled into a stop and I heard a collapsing, falling sound coming from behind us," said Chavkin, a reporter at New York World, a new investigative website based at Columbia's journalism school.
"The back of the bus filled with smoke, the whole bus was full of it. All the people in the back came running to the front screaming, there were people carrying their kids.
"It looked like smoke, though it could have been dust. It filled up the air, you couldn't see very well."
He said people were yelling at the driver to open the door. When he did, police were already on the scene.
"They ushered us across the street," he said.
"I was talking to a teenager who had been in the back, he said he saw rubble fall through the windows. He thought he was going to die."
Police said the building was being demolished when bricks fell onto the scaffolding, and pushed it over onto the bus.
Officials said demolition of the five story building started in July. All proper permits had been obtained.
None of the injuries were serious.
"In a sense, we got lucky," said deputy mayor Cas Holloway at the scene.
"Something happened here that shouldn't have happened. We don't know exactly what."
He said a complaint was filed on Sept. 7 about falling bricks at the site, but investigators saw no reason to cite a violation.
The Department of Buildings had investigators at the site Tuesday. A spokesman said the demolition was being carried out by Queens based Disano Demolition.
A woman contacted at the company Tuesday said nobody was available to give any information about the accident.
Mohammad Islam, 34, was selling fruit and vegetables at a stall at 125th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard.
He said, "It sounded like a big boom.
"There were 25 under the scaffolding, waiting for the bus, when it fell on them. I thought to myself, a lot of people might be dead."