3-year-old boy dies when crushed by gate

CHICAGO It happened at Chicago's Cabrini Green housing complex on the city's North Side.

Witnesses say the 3-year-old had been riding his tricycle before the gate fell on him in part of a housing authority project in the 900-block of North Cambridge.

Residents say the young boy should be considered the victim of neglect. Essentially, they contend that it was a lack of upkeep and investment on the part of the Chicago Housing Authority and a management firm that led to this child's death.

"Like a big crash. And next thing you know, she was hollering 'the baby,'" said one witness.

Witnesses say 3-year-old Curtis Cooper pedaled his tricycle and joined other kids climbing on an iron gate, and that's when it came crashing down.

"I couldn't pick it up. All I could do is lift it. You lift it and you still ain't got it up," said witness Joyce Woods.

"I just picked up the gate. I don't know how I did it. But I got the gate up. Also, I thought about three or four other people helped me. But I did it by myself," said Jimmy Chancellor.

Despite heroic efforts to save the boy, relatives received word at Children's Memorial Hospital that he didn't make it. Curtis' mom saw the fence falling but couldn't do anything to save her son.

"He really don't come outside by himself. He came out for five minutes. And I don't understand how, maybe because it was so stiff and just broke. And just crushed him," said aunt Lisa Springfield.

Sadness quickly turned to anger when representatives of the property management firm that maintains this 60-year-old public housing complex arrived and referred to Curtis' death as an accident.

"It shouldn't have happened, but it happened," said Delphine Jasper, Urban Property Advisors.

The 350-apartment complex in the shadow of Chicago's sparkling skyline is part of the last remnants of the old Cabrini Green neighborhood. It's undergoing a massive renovation. But residents point to similar iron gates, chained up and apparently barely standing, as evidence that safety isn't a priority there.

Urban Property Advisors has been in charge of that particular property for the last two years now. They insist that weekly safety inspections have taken place. But now they promise to step up those inspections and remove any iron gates that may have become loose over the years.

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