Duluth police release names of victim, drivers in fatal DTA bus crash

By Brady Slater / Duluth News Tribune One day after Tuesday's fatal bus crash in downtown Duluth, an arrangement of red and yellow flowers marked the site on the 400 block of West Superior Street. The flowers were placed by a family member -- wit...

By Brady Slater / Duluth News Tribune

One day after Tuesday’s fatal bus crash in downtown Duluth, an arrangement of red and yellow flowers marked the site on the 400 block of West Superior Street.

           The flowers were placed by a family member - with the help of workers on the adjacent Maurices headquarters construction site - in memory of Michael Mooney, 53, whom Duluth police identified Wednesday as the person who died in the crash.

Mooney was a passenger on an eastbound Duluth Transit Authority bus that struck a stop sign and traffic signal pole on Superior Street at Fifth Avenue West early Tuesday morning before slamming into concrete barriers that marked the perimeter of the construction site. Police also said in a news release that “indications are the driver of the eastbound bus suffered from a medical emergency” prior to the crash.

A second, westbound DTA bus ran into the eastbound bus immediately after its impact with the concrete barriers.


The driver of the eastbound bus, Rodney Polson, 58, of Duluth, and the driver of the westbound bus, Glenn McGill, 59, of Duluth, have been placed on sick leave until the conclusion of police and subsequent DTA investigations, DTA officials said in an interview Wednesday. Results of toxicology tests of both drivers were not immediately available, said Jim Heilig, director of planning and administration for the DTA.

“We would keep both drivers out of service until we had that information,” he said. “There are strict protocols through the (Federal Transit Administration).”

Bus drivers across the city were being inundated with inquiries from riders, Heilig said.

“Obviously everybody is concerned and saddened by this event,” he said. “Every passenger getting on has a comment, almost.”

The eastbound bus was No. 143, traveling a route coming from Gary-New Duluth. The westbound bus, No. 157, was on the Woodland route, heading to Proctor. All told, there were 15 passengers between the two buses. Nine people were injured in the crash. It was not known Wednesday if the driver of the eastbound bus was out of the  local hospital where he was taken by ambulance after the crash.

Duluth police and Minnesota State Patrol investigators have viewed video footage from both buses, as has the DTA’s own accident investigation crew, Heilig said.

While Duluth police public information officer Ron Tinsley said initial results of the investigation indicated Polson suffered a medical emergency preceding the crash, Tinsley went on to say the investigation was not yet complete.

“A final determination as to what caused this crash will be made once all evidence, interviews and medical information have been collected and reviewed,” Tinsley said in a news release.          



Mooney had worked for Black Woods Group for 12 years, and his co-workers “are heartbroken,” said company director of operations Julie Thoreson. “He was one-of-a-kind.”

Mooney started working at Black Woods on London Road, and then transferred downtown in 2009 when the company opened Black Water Lounge and took over the Greysolon Ballroom. Thoreson said Mooney had a hand in all aspects of the operation.

“He knew all the inner workings of Greysolon Plaza; he kept things running there,” she said.

He started his shift at 6 a.m. each day and was never late, Thoreson said.

“When he did not show up for work (Tuesday) his co-workers started looking for him,” she said. “He was always on time and responsible. When he wasn’t there, it was just so unnatural for that to happen.”

Eventually, with hearts sinking, his co-workers and friends learned he had been on the bus that crashed.

‘This is a family’


The DTA’s operations director, Rod Fournier, said the bus company has been able to absorb the losses of two buses and drivers.

“We take into account when we staff our manpower generally a fluctuation of between 5 (percent) and 8 percent down,” he said. Fellow drivers have been informed of the incident as the DTA has learned details, but Fournier said they have not been asked to deliver a company line to passengers - only the truth.

“The worst thing that could happen is any type of misinformation,” he said. “Our discussions (with drivers) are based in fact. We’re with everybody else. The investigation is ongoing; there hasn’t been a lot of factual information out there.”

Passengers’ belongings have been bagged by police evidence personnel, and anyone who had personal effects left on the buses is asked to call the DTA’s lost and found.

“We couldn’t take anything off the bus,” Fournier said.

The DTA will conduct its own investigation, Heilig said, following the police investigation. He acknowledged a redundancy, saying “it won’t be much different than what police are looking at.”

The two buses were relatively new and nearly identical - costing between $425,000 and $440,000 - and were expected to be “12-year vehicles,” said Heilig.

Regarding the eastbound bus, Heilig said it appeared it would be “very difficult to get that one back up and running,” but he couldn’t say for sure. He said it may take up to 30 days to get an assessment on the condition of the buses. The eastbound bus had its passenger-side front nearly completely sheared off from the multiple collisions.


Heilig said he appreciated the concern the DTA was receiving from passengers.

“With DTA staff and passengers, this is a family,” he said. “Especially with bus riders who are regular; drivers know their passengers, their birthdays. There are relationships built up over time, seeing each other virtually on a daily basis.”

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