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.
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)