(Updated at 1:20 p.m.) The back of Republican congressional candidate Patrick Murray’s campaign bus swiped a Jeep in Old Town Alexandria last night and drove off without leaving a note, a witness and the Jeep’s owner tell ARLnow.com.
The Murray campaign says the driver left a note. Alexandria Police say they’re investigating the accident as a hit and run, but also say that someone on the bus left a note.
The alleged incident happened while the bus was trying to turn from King Street onto Union Street around 7:00 last night, witness Jennifer Watkins said in a phone interview this morning. Watkins said the back of the bus loudly scraped against the side of the Jeep, briefly lifting it in the air.
Watkins estimated that about 30 people were within earshot of the accident. The bus was adorned with campaign signs, she said, and a Murray for Congress SUV preceded the bus down King Street with a megaphone blaring.
Watkins said the SUV later doubled back to inspect the damage, but left without anyone getting out of the vehicle. Afterward, Watkins and another witness left notes on the car to tell the owner what happened.
“To blatantly drive away with all these witnesses watching… we were in disbelief,” Watkins said. “We tried to give the benefit of the doubt that maybe they didn’t know that they did that, but when the guy came back around we were like… this is ridiculous.”
The Jeep’s owner, Barbara Reeder, says the campaign has not contacted her yet. She’s hoping to get the bus’s insurance information so she can get her car repaired.
“This is not a political issue,” Reeder said. “The only thing that concerns me is that it was a hit and run… I just want to make sure my car gets fixed.”
The incident is being investigated as a property damage hit and run, says Alexandria Police spokesperson Ashley Hildebrandt. She said that someone on the bus left a note. She was unable to say whether a traffic citation was or will be issued to the bus driver.
“We’ll handle it the same way” as any other accident involving a bus, Hildebrandt said.
In response to an ARLnow.com inquiry, a Murray campaign spokesperson disputes witness accounts that the bus driver did not leave a note on the Jeep. The campaign issued the following statement:
Tuesday night there may have been contact between the campaign bus we have contracted and a vehicle in Old Town Alexandria.
My preliminary information is the bus driver stopped, looked for damage and in the dark, apparently found none. Nonetheless, he left a message on the windshield of the impacted car.
Very late last night I was contacted by the Alexandria police investigating the incident. As the campaign was not the leasing agent, I had no information and informed the police we would inform the driver today that the police would like to talk to him today. We expect the situation will be fully resolved today.
There were no injuries and no hit and run. The bus is fully insured and any damages will be covered by the bus owner.
With just six days to go until the election, the accident is an unwelcome distraction for the Murray campaign. Murray was just beginning to enjoy some media traction thanks to controversial comments made by his Democratic opponent, Rep. Jim Moran.