CTA bus driver cited, victim ID'd in deadly Mich. Ave crash

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Sources said the CTA bus driver stopped fully for a red light then, for an unknown reason, drove through the red light and caused the crash. (WLS)

A 48-year-old CTA bus driver was cited for running a red light and failing to exercise due care in a deadly crash at North Michigan Avenue and East Lake Street Tuesday afternoon.

Donald Barnes has been with the Chicago Transit Authority for about nine months, according to the public transit agency, and had been on the CTA Bus No. 148 Clarendon/Michigan Express route since March 2015. He was on his way from the State/Harrison stop to the Michigan/Wacker stop when the crash occurred. No one else was on the bus.

Eyewitness News learned the bus had a forward-facing camera that captured the entire incident. Sources said the driver stopped fully for a red light at Lake and Michigan, but then, for an unknown reason, started driving through the red and caused the crash.

Police are looking into whether the bus driver had a medical emergency while driving. There is no evidence that drugs, alcohol or a mechanical problem played a role in the crash.

One woman was killed and several people, including Barnes, were injured in the crash. At least three vehicles and the bus were involved in the crash just before 6 p.m. Tuesday.

While the wreckage as cleared Tuesday night, crews returned Wednesday to replace the traffic lights damaged in the crash at the busy intersection, where accordion buses like the one involved in Tuesday's accident, often get stuck.

"Ten times out of ten, they seem to get stopped at the light. So they are already at the intersection. So they keep going north," Carleen Dickey, pedestrian, said.

"I call it the worm bus: when half part over and back part is out. And, the pedestrians in the middle crosswalk. That is dangerous," Wanda Williams, pedestrian, said.

"I have seen CTA go through red lights. I've seen all types of transportation maybe not paying as much attention as they should. It's almost a free for all in this area," Alan Tuerkheimer, pedestrian, said.

While Barnes was cited in the crash, the CTA said it is still investigating the accident. He has no previous traffic record, officials said.

The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office confirmed the identity of the fatality as Aimee Coath, 51, of south suburban Flossmoor, Ill. She was pinned under the bus.

Coath died after being transported to Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

She was supposed to be meeting her son and ex-husband for dinner Tuesday night and they were waiting for her at the restaurant, her brother said.

"They were calling her phone and [were] very concerned. And when [her ex-husband] got back to his home in Flossmoor, a policeman was there, and that's how the family found out," James Edward Coath said.

Coath grew up in Lake Forest and is one of eight children. She is survived by two grown children, including a daughter who is set to be married in the fall. She worked as a manager at a Gap store. The company released a statement that read, in part, "We are currently focused on the well-being of our employees who worked with Aimee and are affected by this tragic news. Our thoughts are with Aimee's family during this difficult time."

PHOTOS: CTA bus crash on Michigan Avenue

Witnesses said the CTA bus swerved to avoid another car and, in the process, careened into pedestrians, struck other cars and wound up on the south side of the pedestrian plaza in front of 205 N. Michigan Avenue. Coath was crossing the street.

She and Barnes were the most seriously injured in the crash. The CTA would not comment on Barnes' condition, but said he has spoken with police.

Eight others, including a child, were hospitalized - seven were taken in serious condition, one in stable condition. Seven others, including those who were in other vehicles that were hit, refused treatment at the scene.

Coath's family is in shock, James Edward said.

"Every day we hear, 'Today could be your last day. You could get hit by a bus.' But when it happens to your own sister, it's traumatic," he said.
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