Woman Killed by Falling Facade From Chicago Church

Victim transported in critical condition to Northwestern Memorial Hospital where she was pronounced dead

A Chicago woman was killed Thursday after a piece of facade fell off a church in the South Loop neighborhood, police said.

The woman, identified by family members as 34-year-old Sara Bean, was walking in the 1900 block of South Michigan Avenue with her fiance around noon when a piece of masonry fell from the Second Presbyterian Church and struck her, police said.

Witnesses told NBC 5 a brick fell from the top of the building and struck the woman in the head.

"I just see something come down, and I look closely and I just see the lady fall down, really falls down, and the guy just starts yelling hysterically like something was really going on," witness Broderick Adams said.

Bean was transported in critical condition to Northwestern Memorial Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

The victim's family said Bean was the mother of two young boys, ages 10 and 14, and was going to get married soon. She lived across from the church and worked at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.

"I can honestly say a good person, a genuinely great person," the victim's brother, Michael Willis, said. "Anybody could depend on her, she was very dependable, very loved, and we're gonna miss her."

Mimi Simon, spokesperson for the City of Chicago Department of Buildings, said city building inspectors responded to the scene Thursday.

"As assessment determined that a corner of one of the metal decorative pieces on the exterior of the building gave way," Simon said in a statement. "When it fell, it struck the gargoyle on the southeast corner of the steeple, causing a portion of the gargoyle to fall, striking the victim."

Simon said the Department of Buildings has no record of 311 complaints on the building, and said it was last in contact with the property for an inspection on Oct. 30, 2013.

Buildings Department records show the church failed a series of inspections from 2007 to 2011.

In 2011, the church was cited for five violations, including failing to "maintain the exterior walls of the building or structure free from holes, breaks, loose or rotting boards or timbers and any other condition which might admit rain or dampness to the walls," records show.

The church did pass an "assembly/amusement annual inspection" in 2012.

"The building wasn't structurally sounds because they failed inspections before," Willis said. "It could have been prevented." Workers were seen putting up scaffolding around the church Thursday night.

The church, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was where Mary Todd Lincoln and Marshall Field worshipped.

Area Central Detectives are conducting a death investigation.

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