Maggie Daley Park is no stranger to happy headlines. But this time, the news isn’t all good. The city’s popular $60 million dollar park is getting unwanted attention over one of its attractions – three tall slides that line the lakefront. NBC 5 Investigates has uncovered at least 2 dozen reports of injuries to kids and adults at the park in recent months, the majority of them broken arms and legs.
Kathleen Hayes says it happened to her 5 year-old son Henry on one of the park’s tall slides in April. Hayes says she watched her son shoot out of a slide and flip over, sending his teeth into his lip.
"I could tell he was hurt and ran over to him and there was just blood all over his face," Hayes recalled.
The injury landed Henry at an urgent care clinic, from a slide Hayes says was marked for 5 year-olds.
"There's no reason it should have hurled him the way it did. That's crazy," Hayes said. "I would trust that park engineers would know what they are doing in terms of designing a slide and saying who it's appropriate for."
Chicago mom Heather Ward says she had to rush her 14 month-old son, Gavin, to Lurie Children’s Hospital in June after he broke his leg on a smaller slide. Ward says she was astonished at what the hospital staff had to say.
“The nurse told us there have been tons of injuries,” Ward said. “The orthopedic resident joked the injuries were keeping him in business.”
A ride on a slide with his daughter also sent Dan Carver to the hospital in June with a grisly injury -- his leg broken in two places, leaving his ankle rotated almost backward.
"It was the worst pain I've ever felt in my life, there's no question," Carver recalled. "It happened very quickly. the sole of my shoe just gripped the slide and kind of ripped and tore it back."
The horror stories don’t stop there. NBC 5 Investigates also found numerous posts on social media, relating injuries and expressing concern:
“That slide at the Maggie Daley Park gave me some nice bruises.”
“That slide messed up my left leg.”
“The tall metal slide at Maggie Daley Park is very dangerous. Wear a helmet.”
So how often do those incidents escalate into a real emergency? According to records we obtained thru a freedom of information request, 911 calls to this address are now frequent, landing a steady stream of park goers at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Orthopedic surgeons there have treated some two dozen patients injured at the park in recent months.
Carver says he didn’t see any signs with age ranges posted near the slide where he broke his leg. He says he did see other parents and kids doubling up. As did we. On the multiple occasions NBC 5 Investigates visited the park, we witnessed dozens of landings – many rough, some tearful, but also plenty of safe, uneventful arrivals.
So what is it about this popular new park that may be leading to so many broken bones? With no supervision and throngs of visitors, are kids and parents simply left on their own? And are these structures safe?
In a statement, the Chicago Park District told NBC 5 Investigates:
“Maggie Daley Park is one of the largest and busiest playgrounds in the city; since April, an estimated 400,000 people have visited the park's playground areas. While any injury sustained at a Chicago Park District facility is one too many, the rate of incident compared to the number of people that use the park is very low.
The play equipment at Maggie Daley Park was carefully selected and designated for appropriate age groups and meets criteria set by the ASTM, an international standards organization, for Playground Equipment for Public Use.
As for the alleged incident occurring on 4/5/15, we have reviewed officially submitted reports and have yet to match any to the incident described by Ms. Hayes.”