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

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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.

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