Family of Woman Killed Near NBC Tower Sues Bus Company

By BJ Lutz
|  Tuesday, May 17, 2011  |  Updated 3:27 PM CDT
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Witness Describes Accident Scene

David Soto remains in custody on charges of aggravated DUI.

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Witness Describes Accident Scene

Woman in her mid-20s was struck by a bus while crossing the street.
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The family of a woman killed near NBC Tower when she was struck by a private charter bus has filed suit against the bus company, saying it was negligent in employing the driver.

The driver, 47-year-old David Soto, remains in custody on charges of aggravated DUI in connection with the death of Justyna Palka, 24.  Prosecutors and police officials said Soto had cocaine in his system at the time of the accident, at North Columbus Drive and East Illinois Street on May 3. 

He's also had a number of traffic violations and was wanted in connection with a sexual assault investigation, officials said.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court, said Pontarelli Group Charters failed to do a proper background check when they hired Soto.

"This tragic loss was entirely preventable: First, Pontarelli should have never hired this dangerous individual as a professional driver; Second, Mr. Soto’s decision to drive a bus in his impaired condition is unforgivable; Third, the failure of a professional driver to yield to a pedestrian crossing a street in a marked crosswalk is reprehensible," the lawfirm of Corboy and Demetrio, which is representing the family, said in a statement.

The bus company maintains it had no knowledge of Soto's criminal past.

Palka was a talented graphic artist who'd graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and within six months had become Art Director at Ogilvy & Mather, a global advertising, communications and public relations firm.

A spokesperson for Pontarelli was not immediately available for comment.   Soto is due back in court on May 24.

A memorial for Justyna Palka has appeared at the intersection of Grand and Columbus in Chicago's Streeterville neighborhood.

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