By JERMONT TERRY
CHICAGO (WBBM) — Strong winds Friday were partially to blame for a streetlight coming crashing onto two vehicles in Streeterville.
As CBS 2’s Jermont Terry reported, the City of Chicago had a greater role in the incident.
The base of the light pole was visibly rusted out as it lay on its side between two orange cones at Columbus Drive and Grand Avenue. Late Friday, city crews were removing the pole, which fell on top of a sport-utility vehicle with two people inside.
Those two people said they didn’t know what came down on top of them.
“Like shock, what happened?” said Bailey Ippolito.
Ippolito was thankful that she and her boyfriend, Donovan Palmer, walked away from the horrific scene. Ippolito was driving, and Palmer was in the passenger seat, when the streetlight came crashing down as they waited for the red light at Grand and Columbus.
“I hear people kind of like exclaiming from the street. It’s muffled because we’re in the car, but they’re like: ‘Oh my God, oh my God!’ and I look out of the corner of my eye to and see this thing moving toward car – and all of sudden it’s a big bang,” Ippolito said. “The windshield just cracked.
The pole landed right on the passenger side of the SUV, where Palmer was sitting.
“I could of died if we were a little bit closer, but I’m grateful to be here,” Palmer said.
While it was windy Friday night, Ippolito and Palmer were perplexed to see how easily the heavy streetlight fell. But that rusty base sheds light.
“It was just like so corroded. Like, I don’t even know how it was standing to begin with – like how did it get to this point?” Ippoliton said.
Faulty light poles are an issue the CBS 2 Investigators have spent years digging into, as they have fallen onto Chicago cars and left people injured. The city has promised a fix, vowing to get rid of dangerous light poles – but more keep falling.
Just a few weeks ago, a pole fell at the very same intersection of Columbus Drive and Grand Avenue. It also had a rusty base and had looked questionable for years.
Back in September, DuSable Lake Shore Drive was shut down at Chicago Avenue when a light pole snapped and came down.
The falling poles have left pedestrians injured too. A couple of years ago, a pole fell onto a 25-year-old woman’s Jeep at Illinois Street and McClurg Court – just a block away from the intersection where the last two incidents happened. That incident left the woman, Isabella Keating, with the concussion, and resulted in a lawsuit against the city.
Before that, there was Maya Kirk, who was struck by a falling light pole while walking to work in the Loop on Nov. 21, 2019. She called out the City of Chicago for failing to maintain or repair light poles citywide.
Kirk suffered serious injuries to her heard and leg when the pole snapped at its base as she walked past the State of Illinois’ James R. Thompson Center, around 161 N. LaSalle St.
“I was just thinking that fell on me,” Kirk told CBS 2 in a January 2020 report. “How am I still here?”
The faulty pole problem spurred the city to commission a $2.5 million audit years ago, where surveyors examined and graded every pole in Chicago – more than 300,000 of them.
The CBS 2 Investigators broke that audit down back in December and found 10 percent – more than 30,000 poles – were graded as having a concerning problem.
“To the city – fix them before they fall,” Palmer said. “It’s just a hazard.”
While the Chicago Department of Transportation has replaced many light poles throughout the city. But the fact is plenty of rusty poles are still standing around Chicago – and they keep falling.
“I’d say work on it faster,” Ippolito said. I mean, it’s negligent at this point. That’s a very big hazard.”
Ippolito and Palmer were just thankful to be walking away from the accident – though they of course have some damage to the SUV. But they mostly want to know what the City of Chicago is doing to make sure such a thing does not happen to anyone else.
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