Skip to main content

'Hero' passenger killed in Duluth bus crash was trying to help stricken driver


The man who died when an out-of-control bus in Duluth was involved in a series of collisions – including with another bus – had run forward to help the driver moments before the crash.

Michael Mooney, 53, of Duluth, was a passenger in an eastbound Duluth Transit Authority bus being driven by Rodney Polson, 58, when it crashed on April 14.

Details released by Duluth Police Department, based on surveillance footage and witness accounts, reveal Mooney ran from his seat to the front of the bus to aid Polson, after it became clear something was wrong with the driver as the bus went out of control.

Duluth Mayor Don Ness has paid tribute to Mooney in light of the revelations, telling the Star Tribune his actions were "the very definition of heroism."

"He was a Marine, and I think he recognized the severity of the moment and understood that action was required," Ness told the newspaper. "He put his own life at risk to save the lives of others. … We are both thankful and appreciative of his willingness to act."

Duluth police also revealed that another of the bus passengers, 58-year-old Marie Doucette, remains in critical condition in hospital.

Damage caused by barrier smash

Police say the bus's eventual collision with another DTA bus, heading westbound, wasn't actually the most severe aspect of the crash, the release notes.

It found that the "vast majority" of the damage sustained by the bus came when it crashed into a traffic signal, changing the bus's direction towards the westbound carriage, where it crashed into the concrete barriers along the roadway.

The collision with the westbound bus was described as "minor."

Police continue to investigate the incident. There's no indication at this stage what caused Polson to lose control of the bus, though the Duluth News Tribune reports that police have previously said a medical event could be behind it.

According to his obituary, Mooney joined the U.S. Marines after graduating from Harvard High School, serving for 10 years and retiring as a sergeant.

He moved to Duluth in the early 1990s and eventually ended up working at the Black Woods Group.

Next Up

D'Angelo Russell

D'Lo's late takeover helps Timberwolves win double-OT thriller

Russell caught fire to help the Timberwolves get back to .500.

Gopher Football

Gophers suffocate Badgers, reclaim Paul Bunyan's Axe

Minnesota picked up its first home win over the Badgers since 2003.

Meeker County Sheriff's Office

Boy, 6, run over after falling off trailer in Meeker Co. tree farm accident

He was airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center with internal injuries.

Target store

Target unveils deals for 2-day 'Cyber Monday' event

The promotion kicks off Sunday, November 28.

Screen Shot 2021-11-27 at 9.59.30 AM

Edina police warn of recent burglary trend targeting garages and vehicles

The Edina Police Department is increasing patrols in affected neighborhoods in response to the trend.

Screen Shot 2021-11-27 at 9.03.06 AM

Charges: Man shot Uber Eats driver making a delivery in Cottage Grove

Otis Donnell Shipp was charged with second-degree attempted murder after turning himself in on Wednesday.

Screen Shot 2021-11-27 at 7.36.14 AM

Waterfront hotel in Duluth sustains damage in kitchen fire

Authorities estimate the damage at around $75,000.

Screen Shot 2021-11-27 at 7.15.18 AM

Large groups of thieves target 2 Twin Cities Best Buys on Black Friday

It bears similarities to the flash-mob style thefts seen recently in California.

Karl-Anthony Towns

Timberwolves' winning streak snapped at five games

The Wolves' bid for their longest winning streak since 2014 came up short.

Screen Shot 2020-08-14 at 6.45.53 PM

Teen arrested over fatal shooting of 5-year-old boy in Brooklyn Park

Police say the teen was filming a social media video while handling a gun.

Joe Biden

President Biden coming to Minnesota to promote Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

Tuesday's trip follows passage of the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal.