PORT ANGELES — A Port Angeles woman is facing felony charges in one — and possibly two — counties of allegedly hopping behind the wheel of a Clallam Transit bus on Dec. 27 and driving it almost all the way to Shelton.
The Mason County Prosecutors Office has filed charges against Hailey Weatherbie, 35, for possession of a stolen motor vehicle. She has an arraignment hearing to enter a plea in Mason County Superior Court in Shelton on Monday.
The Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is in the process of reviewing documents from the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office and gathering information regarding a possible charge of theft of a motor vehicle.
Both charges are Class B felonies.
Clallam Transit General Manager Jim Fetzer said staff alerted him shortly before 5 p.m. on Dec. 27 that one of its buses on a layover at the Sequim Transit Center, 190 W. Cedar St., was missing.
A review of video footage from outside the transit center showed a woman forcing the doors of the bus open and driving it away at 2:19 p.m.
A transit worker also identified Weatherbie as having been at the transit earlier in the day and inquiring about getting to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Fetzer said.
The Mason County Sheriff’s Office and Washington State Patrol were alerted when the bus’ GPS tracking device identified its location on state Highway 3 near Allyn, just north of Shelton.
Lt. Nathan Birklid of the Mason County Sheriff’s Office said it received a call from Mason County Emergency Communications around 5 p.m. about a possibly stolen 29-foot Clallam Transit bus. A Mason County deputy identified the bus and pulled it over about 10 minutes later.
The deputy confirmed Weatherbie matched the description of the person seen in the video footage and took her into custody, according to a Mason County probable cause statement.
Weatherbie was booked into Mason County Jail for investigation of possession of a stolen motor vehicle and then was released on her own recognizance.
Weatherbie was the only occupant on the bus when she was apprehended.
Washington State Patrol spokesperson Katherine Weatherwax said a trooper remained at the scene until the bus could be retrieved.
Fetzer said a team from Clallam Transit drove to Shelton to bring it back to Port Angeles that evening.
The buses are not started with a key, Fetzer said, but by following a certain sequence and engaging a master switch.
“She seemed to know what she was doing; she had to have had some knowledge,” said Fetzer, who noted that Weatherbie drove carefully and under the speed limit. There was no damage to the bus, a 2022 Gillig diesel, which costs about $600,000.
After heading east on U.S. Highway 101 and turning onto state Highway 3, Fetzer said the bus passed through the Bremerton ferry toll gate, turned around, stopped at a Bremerton gas station and then continued south.
Clallam Transit buses are equipped with a UnitedGPS tracking system that provides real-time location information. It enables riders to track their buses with an app and operations workers to monitor the fleet.
Fetzer said in light of the theft, Clallam Transit has instituted more stringent procedures that will greatly reduce the risk of a similar event. Drivers are now required to completely shut down buses that are in layover for more than an hour, thus preventing anyone from being able to start them.
Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.