Drawbridge Crushes Taxi; Driver Dies; 2 Riders Hurt

Associated Press

A taxi driver was killed when his cab was caught on a rising drawbridge, fell to the pavement and then was crushed as the span closed, authorities said.

The cab, driven by Ju Bang, 36, of Chicago, was halfway on the bridge late Tuesday night when it was raised to accommodate a barge on the Chicago River, which winds through downtown.

Bang's two passengers, Jane Williams of Highland, Ind., and her friend, Reva Hawk of Chicago, were injured but managed to jump from the car. "I was hysterical," Williams said Wednesday.

The car landed upside down on the pavement, extended over the water. The bridge then was lowered and crushed the car, police said.

The operator of the tugboat pulling the barge alerted the bridge tender, who raised the bridge again. The car, with its underside caught on the span, dangled over the water.

Two Passengers Hurt

Williams, 28, was in fair condition in Northwestern Memorial Hospital with wrist and arm fractures. Hawk, 31, was treated for cuts and released, hospital spokeswoman Pat Miller said.

As the gates came down to keep traffic off the bridge while it was raised and lowered, the cab stopped at the bridge's west end with its front wheels on the street and its rear wheels on the span, police traffic specialist William Bratek said.

It was not clear why the driver, a three-year veteran of the city's taxi fleet, stopped there.

The bridge tender works in a booth at the east end, and the bridge opens in one section from the west end.

As the bridge came up, the car teetered and fell and landed upside down on the roadway, Sgt. Thomas Reynolds said.

Escape Unexplained

Bratek said that police were uncertain how the two passengers, who were out to celebrate Williams' birthday, escaped the cab.

Reynolds said that the women urged Bang to go around the lowered gates to get away from the bridge.

"We don't know why he did not take their direction, but we suspect there was some communication problem," he said.

He said it was not clear when the women got out of the cab, and it also was not known how high the car was lifted before it fell from the bridge.

The bridge tender told authorities he did not see the cab on the bridge. He was suspended with pay, pending an investigation, and has agreed to undergo testing for alcohol or drug use.

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