Good Samaritan hurt on Stevenson Expressway

October 22, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Twenty-eight-year-old Daniel Vazquez was struck on the Stevenson Expressway near Damen overnight Thursday night while helping a stranded driver.

Now, rather than preparing to graduate with his training class, he is fighting for his life.

Vazquez was transported to Stroger Hospital in critical condition. He remained in critical condition Friday night, and was being treated for brain injuries.

At about 1 a.m. Friday morning, he was off-duty, trying to help another driver who had crashed into a median wall in the southbound lanes of the Stevenson Expressway. As he approached the car, another vehicle hit Vazquez.

Vazquez, 28, was just three weeks away from graduating from the police academy, but he was already acting as an experienced officer.

"I'm just incredibly proud that he was injured while trying to help someone," said Lt. Michael Pigott of Chicago Police recruit training.

Paramedics transported Vazquez to Stroger Hospital in critical condition with brain injuries.

Other trainees visited Vazquez and his family at the hospital all day. It is the latest incident in what has been a difficult year for the training academy.

"The staff is taking it pretty hard. We've had a number of tragedies here at the academy recently," Pigott said.

Those tragedies include the murder of Officer Thomas Wortham IV in May. The Army National Guard veteran had returned from Iraq to work at the training academy when he was murdered outside his family's Gresham home.

And, in July, lead instructor Thor Soderberg was killed as he left a police facility at 61st and Racine.

Vazquez and others in his class that began in April took classes from Soderberg.

"In an academic setting, that we've had so many tragedies and accidents recently that have touched the classes that are in the academy has drawn everyone to become closer and to realize that this is a very dangerous job," said Pigott.

The driver who Vazquez stopped to help was uninjured.

The 26-year-old driver who hit Vazquez stopped at the scene and was cited for failing to reduce speed, driving without a license, failure to yield to a pedestrian and improper lane usage.

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