No Explanation Yet for Why CTA Bus Driver Ran Stoplight, Killing a Pedestrian

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Aerial photo of the crash site. Image: Chicago Tribune.

The CTA says it doesn’t yet have a clear picture on why one of its bus drivers stopped at a red light on Michigan Avenue, then ran the light, fatally striking a 51-year-old woman.

On Tuesday evening around 5:50 pm, Donald Barnes, 48, was driving the empty, articulated bus east on Lake Street and stopped at the red on Michigan, then proceeded through the light, according to Officer Janel Sedovic from News Affairs. Barnes struck several vehicles and then jumped the curb onto the crowded north sidewalk of Lake Street, striking two pedestrians, Sedovic said.

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Aimee Coath

One of the pedestrians, Flossmoor resident Aimee Coath was transported to Northwestern Hospital, where she was pronounced dead, Sedovic said. Coath, who worked at a downtown clothing store, had been in the process of planning her daughter’s wedding, the Sun-Times reported.

The other pedestrian and seven motorists, including Barnes, were taken to the hospital with minor injuries. Barnes was charged with failure to stop for a red light and failure to exercise due care for a pedestrian in the roadway, Sedovic said. Major Accidents is investigating.

Authorities are still trying to piece together why the crash occurred. Barnes, a part-time driver who has been working for the CTA since September, was making the first stop of his route when the crash occurred, the Chicago Tribune reported. “We don’t know the full circumstances yet,” CTA spokesman Brian Steele told the Tribune. He said the agency has not yet made a decision about disciplinary action towards the bus driver.

Barnes caused one other crash during his nine-month tenure at the CTA. Last November, he backed a bus into a taxi, causing minor damage to its fender, but there were no injuries and he was not cited, the Tribune reported.

Steele told the Tribune that it doesn’t look like fatigue from overscheduling was a factor in Tuesday’s crash. While Barnes had started working at 6:30 that morning, he had only logged four hours of driving that day and had taken a long break before starting his afternoon routes at 2:30 p.m., Steele said. He added that police and CTA officials are studying video footage from cameras inside the bus.

Fatality Tracker: 2015 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths
Pedestrian: 15 (5 were hit-and-run crashes)
Bicyclist: 2 (both were hit-and-run crashes)

  • Your a idiot

    can’t wait for automated buses. eliminate labor costs and are much safer.

  • BlueFairlane

    As I’ve said before, we can’t even automate train brakes in a reasonable amount of time. Automated buses are a long, long way off.

  • JKM13

    He ran the stoplight because too many CTA bus drivers drive a bus like they’re driving a cab.

  • That said, my husband was on a train for his evening commute the other day where the train was constantly convinced it was about to rear-end another train, so it locked itself down and braked eight separate times between downtown and Addison. Finally a Very Official-Looking CTA Employee came on from the Addison station and did something in the cab that presumably psychoanalyzed the poor thing and let it drive normally again.

  • BlueFairlane

    Now imagine if somebody had asked whatever damaged consciousness was stopping that train to steer. The sad little thing would have been mortified. It probably would have given itself a battery attack.

    Of course, mention this to the robot car boosters, and they’ll give you a hundred reasons why they think things like that could never happen to mindless machines barreling through traffic.

  • Bruce

    The explanation is that this is the way many CTA drivers act. I constantly see them run through red lights and pull into intersections before the lights change in order to get in front of cars next to them.

  • Jeremy

    Agreed. I ride the 134 or 156 each day, and the disregard bus drivers display for crosswalks and intersections surprises me.

  • 1976boy

    What makes no sense about this is the street he was on when he jumped the curb. The route he was driving (148) makes a left turn from eastbound Lake St onto Michigan Avenue. The South Water stop just north of Lake St is where the bus should have been, not on Lake St east of Michigan Avenue.

    There are no bus stops on that stretch of Lake St because it is a dead end street. Mysterious.

  • I was badly shaken up by this incident. If I’d left work “on time” like I almost never do (but had seriously considered that day), I likely would have witnessed it.

    The next day at work, I was rather shocked by the fact that nobody was discussing what had happened, or even seemed to notice that anything untoward had happened at all—except for ONE other person. It just occurred to me that the two of us are the only ones that I know of who arrive at work via Michigan Avenue south from the Loop.

    Now I’m just really saddened by the fact that the blinders people wear against everything not part of their own everyday experience are so large and opaque that something like a bus driver inexplicably blowing through a red light, jumping the curb, and killing someone just doesn’t register as a newsworthy event.

  • oogernomicon

    Or perhaps Chicago could slowly return to using the widespread trolley apparatus that is beneath it’s pavement. I don’t think a trolley is as likely to skip tracks and hurtle onto sidewalk.

  • Jeff H

    Does anyone know if there has been any update on this? Specifically what is the status of the driver and the investigation.

  • Jeff H

    Still can’t find any updates beyond June of last year. I wonder if Mr. Barnes is still driving for the CTA.

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