Crash that killed man, 72, in Niles was not a hit-and-run, police say

NILES, Ill. (WLS) -- Police said the crash that killed a 72-year-old man in north suburban Niles Thursday night was not a hit-and-run, as police initially reported.

The victim was identified to the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office as Michael Potwora of Niles. He was struck and killed while crossing Greenwood Avenue at Betty Terrace just before 6:30 p.m.

"I saw there was a couple cars pulled over and somebody laying at the curbside. A gentleman was there and standing over the person's body," said witness Suzanne Matic. "I started CPR."

Police said Thursdaytold them Potwora was struck and killed by a white SUV or pickup. The white vehicle was then rear-ended by another vehicle before the white vehicle then fled the scene, police said.

Friday afternoon police changed that narrative and said Potwora was in fact struck by a gray 2016 Jeep Patriot, which remained on scene. Police said the driver of that vehicle may have lied to officers about the other vehicle being responsible and leaving the scene.

Police said that driver has been identified, but said no one is in custody and charges have not yet been filed in relation to the crash. The investigation is open and ongoing, police said.

Potwora was rushed to Lutheran General Hospital after being struck, where he was pronounced dead.

"They took the love of my life that I won't have anymore," said Mary Potwora, Michael's wife.

The couple was recently married, but had been in a relationship for nearly 20 years and went everywhere together.

"When you wake up in the morning, you don't think this is the day that my husband will die," she said.

She said Michael walked to the store to grab some milk and a greeting card and was on his way back when he was hit. Mary said the card had a special message.

"God invites you to dream of the day when you feel his hand on your shoulder and his eyes on your face," the card said.

"You don't marry someone to bury them," Mary Potwora said through tears. "I waited 18 years."

The NORTAF Major Crash Assistance Team is assisting in the investigation.
Copyright © 2022 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.