1 dead, 8 injured in Chicago bus crash

The bus jumped a curb onto a sidewalk as commuters headed home from work


By Paulina Firozi and Tony Briscoe
Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO — A CTA bus crash at Michigan Avenue and Lake Street late Tuesday afternoon killed one woman and injured at least eight other people, one of them critically, when the bus jumped a curb onto a sidewalk as commuters headed home from work, officials said. 

Police said early Wednesday morning the CTA bus driver was issued two traffic citations in the crash, one citation for failure to stop at a red light and "another citation for failure to exercise due care."

A victim receives help after a bus crash at the corner of Lake Street and Michigan Avenue in Chicago on Tuesday, June 2, 2015. (Steven Rosenberg/ChicagoTribune/TNS)
A victim receives help after a bus crash at the corner of Lake Street and Michigan Avenue in Chicago on Tuesday, June 2, 2015. (Steven Rosenberg/ChicagoTribune/TNS)

The No. 148-Clarendon/Michigan Express bus heading east on Lake Street and stopped at a light at Lake Street and Michigan Avenue, police said. The bus then proceeded through the light striking two pedestrians and several cars before hitting the curb, police said. CTA officials said the bus struck four vehicles in total.

A 51-year-old woman -- one of the pedestrians hit -- died after being taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital for treatment of injuries suffered in the 5:50 p.m. crash, said Chicago police spokesman Officer Thomas Sweeney. The 48-year-old bus driver suffered minor injuries in the crash and was also taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Seven others, including the second pedestrian hit, were transported to area hospitals to be treated for injuries that were not life-threatening, police said.

CTA officials said the driver was evaulated following the crash and showed no signs of impairment from drugs or alcohol but said final results from a drug test were not yet available.

The driver had been hired by the CTA less than a year ago as a bus operator, said CTA spokesman Brian Steele. The driver had driven the 148 route prior to Tuesday's crash, but Steele could not immediately say for how long.

CTA officials are continuing to work with Chicago police and are reviewing footage from the bus at the time of the crash. Steele said early Wednesday morning it was too soon to know what disciplinary actions, if any, would be taken against the bus' driver.

"We don't know enough about the circumstances [of the crash]," Steele said.

CTA officials could not immediately say if the driver had ever been cited before Tuesday's crash.

Of those injured in the crash, two people were initially considered critically injured, one of them "extremely" critically, according to Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford.

When they arrived on the scene, fire officials called an Emergency Medical Services Plan II, a mass-casualty response that sends at least 10 ambulances to the scene. The plan was declared over by about 6:30 p.m., but police Major Accident Investigation investigators remained on the scene into the evening.

The accordion-style bus ended up on the sidewalk on the north side of Lake Street, east of Michigan Avenue, near a plaza at 205 N. Michigan Ave.

Margaret Aprison, 26, was headed home from her job at the nearby Aon Center, 200 E. Randolph St., and was walking near Lake and Stetson Avenue when she “heard all this noise and all this screaming” and saw the bus drive up onto the sidewalk near the plaza.

“I did end up seeing someone fly up in the air as the bus hit them,” then she saw the bus drive over where it appeared the person landed, Aprison said.

Charles Valiquette, 51, visiting from Dayton, Ohio, was on Michigan Avenue just north of Lake Street when he heard the sound of a crash. He turned around to see a bus on the sidewalk with a woman pinned underneath. 

He said he ran over to help and he could tell she was injured. 

Valiquette said he stayed with her until paramedics arrived to remove her from under the bus. 

"They took her from under the bus and loaded her onto the gurney," he said. "Then they spread the sheet out on her." 

Jack Baldwin said he was driving the first car that was hit in the crash. He heard a loud honk from the bus before it rear-ended his Nissan Sentra and his car spun out. 

"It took me a while to realize what is going on here," he said. After gathering himself, he said, he got out of his car and saw that other cars had been part of the crash and the bus was over a sidewalk. 

"I see the bus up on the hill, and there were a bunch of screams," Baldwin said. "I walked over, and I see that there's a woman pinned under the bus. It's not easy to see something like that. "

Baldwin said he'd never been in a collision before. 

"If he hit me some other different way, then maybe I could have been on the other side," he said. 

After the crash, Aprison saw a crowd gather around the bus, and she saw that a black car struck by the bus had not yet stopped moving as the driver tried to dial.

“The driver was trying to call 911, and he couldn’t get though,” Aprison said.

A woman who was a passenger and a man in the back seat were able to get out, but the driver was trapped following the crash. Aprison tried to tend to the two passengers as they waited for ambulances to arrive. The man was bleeding from the head, and Aprison persuaded him to sit  down, but the woman at first wouldn’t.

“When the ambulance came, I was waving my hand, trying to get the attention of the ambulance,” Aprison said. “I stayed until I was literally asked to leave.”

The injured man was sitting against the car as fire crews began to try to get the driver out, rocking the car to try to free him, and she was afraid the passenger’s head might be further injured, she said. “They were really shaking the car.”

Later Tuesday evening, just before 7:50 p.m., an ambulance took another person into the emergency room at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Following closely behind was a man who was asked to go to the hospital for a relative injured in the crash. The man said that he has a cousin who drives a bus but law enforcement didn't specify if that was the family member who was injured. A CTA SUV arrived at the scene around 8 p.m., and a man wearing a yellow vest entered the hospital's emergency room followed by others similarly garbed.

Following the crash, traffic, including some CTA buses, was being rerouted around the crash scene.

The police Major Accident Investigation Unit was investigating.

Tribune reporters Liam Ford, Deanese Williams-Harris and Quinn Ford contributed.

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©2015 the Chicago Tribune

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