A Chicago woman died Thursday when part of a gargoyle statue struck her on the head, after it was dislodged from a century-old church.
Sarah Bean, 34, and her soon-to-be husband were a short distance away from their Chicago South Loop residence when she was accidentally killed by falling debris from the dislodged gargoyle head. They were coming from lunch before the woman’s late work shift.
The Chicago Tribune wrote that the pair was walking in front of the Second Presbyterian Church when a deadly chain of reactions took place, beginning with a sudden gust of wind in the city.
Police say the burst of wind was strong enough to weaken the bonds of an ornamental metal piece and cause it to become loose. Next, the decorative metal fell and struck a stone gargoyle that extended from the building just above the walking couple.
It fell and landed square on the woman’s head, which resulted in her death, almost instantaneously, according to a Chicago medical examiner and witnesses to the grisly scene.
Lance Johnson, Bean’s fiance, was with her at the time the gargoyle statue’s head fell on her. He described the fatal moments.
“I felt like something happened. I looked back and she was on the ground.”
Frantic, as one can imagine, Johnson fell by Bean’s body, held her hand and screamed in agony from what had taken place. But it was clear there was nothing he could do.
Broderick Adams, a nearby resident who witnessed the tragedy unfold from his fifth-floor apartment across the street from the church, weighed in.
“I saw that crack on her head and thought, ‘She’s definitely dead.'”
Bean was transported to a nearby hospital, and was pronounced dead upon arrival. There, family members gathered and tried to console one another. Bean’s older brother, Michael Willis, reflected on his sister’s life and was overcome by the shocking news of her untimely death.
“She was a beautiful person. This is not good. This is not something you expect, at all.”
The church where the woman died from the gargoyle statue head is a Gothic revival structure. Records show it is a post-Civil War structure that went under construction in 1874. Documents show the building sustained a number of safety code violations between 2007 and 2011.
Some of the infractions were due to ingress and egress of the building and an internal stairwell system that was in need of repair. On the outside of the building, which may factor heavy into the ongoing investigation in terms of cause, the building’s exterior was rife with “fractures,” missing mortar in various locations and flaking of paint, according to one of the Church’s 2010 violations.
However, in 2012 and 2013, the facility received passing grades by the Chicago Buildings Department, and there are indications the structure underwent mandated repairs.
A spokesperson from the Presbytery of Chicago was notified of the woman’s death from the falling gargoyle head. Reverend Roberts Reynolds said that the church is maintained by individual congregations. Moreover, he was not aware of any dire structural matters that required intervention. The church community is in mourning and grief-stricken over the fatality.
The Chicago woman worked at the Lurie Children’s Hospital for seven years in the pediatric support division. She and her fiance were planning to marry soon, after a long courtship. They raised two sons together.
In wake of the woman’s death from a falling gargoyle statue, hopefully the City of Chicago does a review of other aging structures to lessen the chances of death and injury to pedestrians in the future.
[Image via AOL screengrab]