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CHICAGO — PACE suburban bus has agreed to terms with the family of a woman killed in the summer of 2021 when a driver fell asleep at the wheel and crashed.

Brenda Burse (Provided by family)

The family of Brenda Burse will receive $13 million following the death that attorneys say could have been prevented. More importantly, however, loved ones say they hope Monday’s decision is a base for change.

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“I’m looking forward to seeing that they take it very seriously when it comes to individual lives,” said Amelia Burse, the daughter of Brenda Burse. “Safety does matter and a lot of rules and regulations should be changed for employees.”

Brenda Burse was a passenger on a Pace bus on Aug. 15, 2021, when attorneys say the driver, Joe Mckee, fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a tree resulting in her death.

Attorneys Marc Taxman and Sean Murray said McGee was known to have sleep apnea, which they allege was known to PACE and their subcontractor, SCR Medical Transportation, Inc. But attorneys stated that McKee was still allowed to operate a PACE bus, adding there were previously reported incidents regarding his effectiveness to drive that should have kept him off the road.  

“He had fallen asleep before behind the wheel on May 15, 2021, exactly three months before this tragic occurrence,” Taxman said. “During the three months that he was only suspended, not fired or disqualified, he was immediately put back on the road on July 21, 2021.”

Taxman said that McKee returned to work without a system in place to monitor him or any potential treatment for his condition.

Brenda Burse consoled by an attorney. (Photo: WGN)

On Aug. 14, a day before the fatal crash, Taxman alleges that McKee called in sick, claiming to be too tired, but showed up to work the following day.

“He admitted to staying up into the late hours of Aug. 14, 2021, or early morning hours of August 15, 2021, partying,” Taxman said.

Attorneys for the family say the day of the crash, McKee admitted to police that cocaine and alcohol were in his system.

“If (PACE) had followed their own program, then this would’ve never happened,” Murray added.

“Very seldom in a civil liability case does it end with an admission of liability by the defendant. They will avoid that at all costs and PACE and SER admitted their responsibility in this case,” added attorney Marc Taxman.

The bus driver involved has since been arrested and charged with DUI and negligent driving.