Bus hits UI freshman

Bus hits UI freshman

CHAMPAIGN – An 18-year-old University of Illinois student was killed Thursday as a result of being run over by a bus.

Champaign County Coroner Duane Northrup said Sarah E. Channick, whose hometown is Deerfield, was pronounced dead at 5:07 p.m. Thursday at Carle Foundation Hospital's emergency room.

She died from multiple traumatic injuries, Northrup said. Toxicology tests will be done and a coroner's inquest conducted later.

Ms. Channick was a freshman in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.

Champaign police Sgt. Jim Rein said this morning that the accident is still under investigation.

"It's a tragedy," Rein said. "It makes all of us have a knot in our stomachs."

Ms. Channick was walking in a crosswalk west across Sixth Street about 4:30 p.m. Thursday, according to Rein. A Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District bus driven by Demetra Young, 22, of Urbana was going west on Chalmers Street and was turning south onto Sixth Street when the bus struck the pedestrian, he said.

Young was given a ticket for failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, Rein said. She also was taken to a hospital for treatment after becoming sick, he said.

Ms. Channick is believed to have been talking on a cellphone at the time of the accident, but it is unknown whether it is a factor in the accident, Rein said.

Rein said both motorists and pedestrians have to pay attention, particularly on campus, where there is a lot of traffic.

The accident Thursday is the fourth bus-pedestrian accident – and third fatal accident involving a pedestrian – in the campus area in 19 months.

– On Oc. 27, 2004, UI graduate student Carolyn Jeffers, 21, of Champaign was struck and killed by an MTD bus as she crossed Gregory Drive at Goodwin Avenue. The driver was ticketed for failure to yield to a pedestrian.

– On Dec. 14, 2004, UI student Adam Barling fell under a bus as he was trying to board it and was run over without the driver's knowledge.

– On March 1, 2005, Benjamin Lee Robin, 22, of Champaign was struck by a bus at Wright and Chalmers streets. Robin was wearing headphones and was given a ticket for failure to yield as a pedestrian.

– On Feb. 21, 2004, UI graduate student Nadia Chowdhury, 20, was killed at Fourth and John streets when she was hit by a car.

School, MTD call for safety study

Officials from the University of Illinois and the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District want a special committee to look at vehicle-pedestrian safety in the wake of a fatal accident Thursday.

Sarah E. Channick, a UI freshman, was killed as a result of being struck by an MTD bus at Sixth and Chalmers streets about 4:30 p.m. The accident was the fifth vehicle-pedestrian accident in the campus area since February 2004.

Jeff Unger, director of the UI News Bureau, said officials from the UI and MTD met this morning to discuss the accident and what to do to prevent future accidents.

"This group agrees there needs to be a special meeting of (the Champaign-Urbana Urbanized Area Transportation Study) in the next few days," Unger said. "They want to hire a consultant to take a look at the entire vehicle-pedestrian system on campus, particularly the core or central part of campus."

The group wants students to contribute in that study, he said.

"Students will play a key role in this," Unger said.

The result may be some recommendations for improving traffic safety, he said.

Meanwhile, the university has expressed condolences to the family, Unger said.

"Anytime you have a tragedy like this, it hits hard," Unger said. "What a loss, for a person of this age to lose her life."

Ruth McCauley, acting dean of students, said she and counselors met Thursday night with residents at Illini Tower, where Ms. Channick lived. A counseling session is also planned Monday night with members of Gamma Phi Beta, to which she belonged.

Tom Costello, assistant director of the mass transit district, said anyone who is a parent has to be deeply affected by such an accident.

"This is a tragedy for the family, it's a tragedy for us and it's a tragedy for the university," Costello said. "No one wants to deal with this even once."

The district is conducting an investigation into the accident, but has not yet talked to the bus operator, who was hospitalized, Costello said.

MTD and university officials will continue to look for ways to improve safety, he said.

Costello said the MTD and university have had education campaigns to try to make bus operators and students aware of safety issues.

"There's been an increase in all kinds of accidents," Costello said. "There are more people on campus than ever before."

Fifteen years ago, the big traffic safety issue involved heavy bicycle use around campus, Costello said. Now, the problem is large groups of pedestrians who have portable stereos or cellphones distracting them.

"Are there things we can be doing? What do we do? That's the big challenge ahead," Costello said.

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