Everyone on the busy block of Canal Street in the West Loop seemed to know 76-year-old Donna Halstead, who always had a kind word or a bit of advice or something funny to say.
As she walked back from Union Station Tuesday afternoon, she stopped briefly to catch up with a friend, Tyrone Johnson. “Hey Tyrone, I like your hat,” she said, complimenting his tan fedora.
She continued across Adams Street and was just yards from her apartment when a Megabus turned onto Adams and its side mirror knocked Halstead to the pavement, authorities said. She was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital with a head injury and was pronounced dead four hours later, at 6:10 p.m.
Malcolm Washington, 41, a student at Roosevelt University, was heading back home from class when he saw the bus turning. Halstead was crossing toward the end of the light, with the timed signal close to zero, he said.
“It was terrifying. Her head hit the concrete at full speed,” Washington said.
The bus driver, Shemeka Hudson, 32, was cited with failing to yield to a pedestrian in the crosswalk. Police said they were continuing their investigation.
Police Major Accidents investigator Roman Czygryn said police were interviewing witnesses and would check their accounts against surveillance video from a nearby pharmacy. Hudson was to be tested for alcohol and drugs, but there was no indication they were a factor, he said.
This was the second fatal accident involving a Megabus in a week. Last Thursday, one person was killed and dozens were injured when a Megabus lost control and hit an overpass pillar south of Springfield on Interstate 55.
A civil court case involving another Megabus accident near Tuesday's crash in 2010 was settled today, an attorney for the family of the man killed said.
Wesley Kruegerdied four blocks away on Feb. 23, 2010, when a Megabus struck him in a crosswalk at the intersection of Adams and Des Plaines streets. Krueger family lawyer Daniel M. Kotin said his clients and Megabus agreed to a $5.1 million settlement Wednesday in which the bus line didn’t admit wrongdoing. The timing, Kotin said, was unrelated to this week’s accident.
Halstead was remembered as someone who befriended everyone on her block and did volunteer work at the Multiple Sclerosis Society.
“She was a wonderful, wonderful person, a favorite in the neighborhood,” said Dave Barnhart, the manager of the Metropolitan Place Apartments at 130 S. Canal Street when Halstead lived since it was renovated into apartments in 1999. “She made it her business that we be very close."
Halstead's son works at Union Station and she would often bring him lunch there, according to friends.
Stephen Williams, office services coordinator for the Multiple Sclerosis Society, said he worked with Halstead when she came in to volunteer. Though he was almost 20 years her junior, Williams said colleagues used to tease them and call them “office boyfriend and girlfriend.”
“Every time she came in the door, I’d give her a good Christian hug,” said Williams, 55. “She was such a strong-minded, dedicated woman and had a great sense of humor. I’ll miss her as long as she’s gone.”
Halstead, whose daughter has MS, began volunteering for the organization nearly two years ago, Williams said. She was the type of volunteer you could call in a pinch to help you get anything you needed done, he said. In their time working in the office together, Williams said the two put together booklets and planned fundraisers.
“She was a princess and had a princess walk,” he said. “She moved carefully.”
The Multiple Sclerosis Society is planning to do something in her honor, Williams said.
Larry Pryor, 37, a homeless man, said he had known Halstead for some time and saw her get hit. “When I saw it, I just had to walk back and pray,” Pryor said.
Pryor said she was always friendly to homeless people in the neighborhood -- but didn’t give them money. “We’d be over, shaking our pans, and she don’t give no money but she gives advice,” Pryor said.
Megabus CEO Dale Moser said, “We are saddened to report this tragic incident. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone involved, particularly the family of the deceased woman.”
Tribune reporters Liam Ford and Deanese Williams-Harris contributed
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