A Metro bus driver was mourned Thursday at a makeshift memorial in downtown L.A. after her death in a head-on crash with a speeding tow truck driver.
It was around 5 a.m. Wednesday when Matt Mattu, the owner of the 7-Eleven at corner the 5th Street and Broadway in downtown L.A. got a call that a truck had careened into his store.
When he arrived about an hour later, it was "one of those moments you never want to have to face or hear," he said.
The truck had been removed from the storefront, but he learned Olivia Gamboa, 47, had died in the collision.
“All I could do is get some flowers and put some paper here so people can get their wishes out for her, wherever she is right now,” he said.
Mattu was touched to see people gathered at the corner, so he bought flowers and made a space for family, friends and passersby to leave messages for the 13-year Metro veteran.
A group of Metro employees gathered at the spot Wednesday night to mourn Gamboa, he said. They cried on each others' shoulders, held hands and prayed for her, Mattu said.
"Really the community didn’t know where to go, so I felt this would be a place where everyone could come in and talk to her," he said.
Gamboa was described by co-workers as a quiet, family-oriented woman who had a big smile and could light up the division — even in the early morning, said Marc Littman, a Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman.
The bus driver always put a smile on the overnight service employees' faces and was well-liked by her passengers, she said. Over the years, Gamboa had received a number of commendations.
Gamboa was proud of her job and came from a family of bus operators, Littman said. Her husband works for Metro and her daughter recently started there as well.
“She was a very beautiful woman, both inside and out. She had a beautiful heart,” one co-worker told KTLA-TV.
It is rare for operators to be killed while on duty, but on occasion drivers have died in traffic accidents, Littman said. In May 2012, a bus driver was fatally shot in West Hollywood.
“These tragic incidents are very infrequent, but because we’re a family it really hits us,” he said.
Grief counselors have been dispatched to counsel employees, and Metro will work with the employees union and Gamboa’s division to plan a memorial service, Littman said.
"Metro is saddened to learn of the passing of one of our family members this morning as a result of a horrific accident in downtown Los Angeles," Dave Sotero of Metro said.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the bus operator’s family and friends during this difficult time."