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CTA Honors Rider For Helping Bus Driver Who Collapsed

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CTA Bus (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

CTA Bus (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

roberts250 Bob Roberts
Bob Roberts is a native of Wilmette who has worked in Chicago media...
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CHICAGO (CBS) – For the first time, the CTA has presented its highest award to a rider — a man who helped a bus driver on the verge of collapse.

Driver Donyell Robinson is fortunate that attorney David Poell boarded the southbound No. 9/Ashland bus Oct. 21.

Robinson was feeling light-headed, and Poell could see immediately that he was having problems. Robinson asked Poell to take his cell phone, call the CTA Control Center and get help while he pulled the bus over to get some air.

Robinson successfully parked the bus, at Ashland and Grand Avenues, but that’s all he remembers.

“My objective was the passengers and making sure the passengers were safe,” he said. “That’s my job every day.”

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports

Once at the curb, Robinson said he believed getting some fresh air would help. He said he did not realize that he would go down.

“He stood up to try and get some air and as soon as he stood up, he just collapsed and fell on his back,” Poell said. “I kept talking to the CTA Control Center and then told them where we were.”

By this time, Poell was speaking simultaneously on Robinson’s cell phone with the Control Center and with 911 operators on his own cell phone to summon an ambulance.

Other riders came forward, and helped the slightly-built Poell carry the heavier Robinson off the stairs, where he lay, and back onto the bus.

Chicago Fire Department paramedics transported Robinson to St. Mary of Nazareth Hospital, where he spent six days.

He has not driven since, and said Wednesday that doctors have been unable to diagnose what happened.

“I believe it was just a little bit of stress from driving the bus,’’ he said.

Robinson has driven CTA buses for 12 years, and said most drivers today carry a cell phone that has the Control Center number on speed dial expressly for use in the case of emergencies. He said, although the buses are equipped with two-way radios and an emergency communications system, the cell phone is far faster.

Robinson said he is thankful for the help that Poell and others provided. Although Poell said he is grateful to receive the President’s Commendation award, he shrugs it off.

“It’s just one of those incidents where he and I were brought together totally by chance, but I’d like to think that what I did is something a lot of other people would do,” Poell said.

The award does not carry any compensation with it, although Poell said CTA personnel drove him afterward to the Ashland Green Line station to catch a train downtown.

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