8 people hurt in Gold Coast wreck

May 21, 2011 (CHICAGO)

A two-year-old girl is one of at least eight people who were allegedly hit by a pickup truck driven by a Chicago Streets and Sanitation worker.

"He missed the baby... by about a few inches," said witness Mark Marcovich.

Police Saturday night said the driver was in custody and at least four people were still in the hospital. Charges are expected to be filed against the driver.

The people in the photo shoot, which included the toddler, were dressed up as members of a mock wedding party.

The accident happened near Cedar and Rush in the heart of the busy Gold Coast neighborhood on the Near North Side. At the time, sidewalks were packed with shoppers and lunch-hour pedestrians.

Many of the injured were hospitalized Saturday, including a two-year-old girl transported in good condition, and her caregiver, a woman in her 20s, who was in critical condition.

The toddler was at Children's Memorial Hospital Saturday night, still in good condition. At least three adults remained in serious to critical condition.

"The Fire Department was on the scene very quickly, and they began triaging and processing the people through," said Chicago Police Lt. Paul Mack.

Police are investigating what caused that driver, a city worker, to crash. The driver had been heading north on State Street before taking a sharp right turn at high speed and jumping a curb.

Witnesses say the photo shoot went bad when a City of Chicago Streets and Sanitation vehicle careened out of control and into the group as they posed for pictures at a Near North Side corner.

"I heard a horrendous crash and somebody screaming at the top of their lungs," said witness Kristan Rowland.

It is believed the injured were dressed as members of a wedding party posing for pictures at the corner of Cedar and Rush when they and their photographer were struck by a Ford pickup truck.

"He came around the corner and hit the groom and there was a baby carriage and the mom was pinned up against the wall," said witness Kyle Quintero. "The mom's leg was very hurt and the groom flew in the air."

Quintero said it did not look to her like the driver tried to slow down.

"He came around the corner, didn't brake - he did not brake at all. The screeching and the marks are from his tires burning," said Quintero.

Bystanders lifted at least one of the vehicles to free the trapped people. The truck came to rest after slamming into a wall.

"There were a girl and guy on top of each other pinned up against a wall," said witness Kevin Knabjian. "Everybody gathered around the truck and we lifted up the truck and moved it over just so that we could get the pressure off the people."

Four other people were also injured when the truck pinned at least one other person beneath another vehicle.

"All of a sudden, out of nowhere, I heard this loud screeching sound and I saw the sanitation truck turn around the corner and then plow into this group of people," said witness Marjorie Lang. "It was horrific just to see that happen in an instant, in a flash. I have no idea what that guy was thinking."

A spokesperson for the Department of Streets and Sanitation says the driver works as a laborer, cleaning streets and picking up garbage, though it is unclear exactly what he was working on at the time of the incident.

"He just kind of looked out of it. He didn't seem like he was remorseful, he just kind of stood there," said Knabjian. "Didn't seem like he was shaken or anything."

"As the guys are laying on the street, he lights up a cigarette because he needed to smoke. He could have just killed four people," said Quintero.

Officials say the driver underwent drug and alcohol testing before being taken into custody. Police have not released the driver's name and said charges were pending Saturday night.

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