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Rusty, Falling Light Poles In City Called 'Real Ticking Time Bomb'

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Isabella Keating was sitting at a stop light in Streeterville last week, when a light pole came crashing down on her windshield, causing serious injury.

Officers on the scene said it was rusted out at the base. It's a danger that the CBS 2 Investigators have been uncovering for years. As CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reports, the light pole that gave Keating a concussion is gone, replaced with a new one. CBS 2 asked police about it more than a week ago but didn't get the full story until the crash report was just made available.

When CBS 2 first asked Chicago Police about the light pole that crashed onto the windshield of the 25-year-old woman's Jeep last week, we were told it was likely caused by a car hitting the pole. The crash report tells a different story.

Keating suffered a bad concussion and was covered in pieces of shattered glass. Officers were patrolling near Illinois and McClurg when they were called to Keating's rescue. She told them the pole snapped and started falling.

Then, the officers went out of their way to check it out, writing in the report, "the light pole base appeared to be extremely rusted and could have been a factor in its falling."

Attorney Michael Demetrio represents Keating and another client, Maya Kirk, who as injured by a light pole falling in November in the Loop.

The officers "were clearly moved and motivated to note that in their police report," said Demetrio. "This is a very well-known issue."

Between 2014 and 2018, the city has received 7,821 complaints of leaning or falling poles, along with 494 reports of property damage. There have been 75 reported injuries.

The problems with rusty light poles are an issue CBS 2 Investigator Dave Savini has been looking into for six years.  But the poles continue to fall across the city, including one that fell onto a car in Albany Park just last night. Rust was visible at the base.

Demetrio says that is why he has filed lawsuits on behalf of both Kirk and Keating in the hopes that the city will be more proactive in maintaining its aging infrastructure.

"That's the real danger of these light poles," said Demetrio, "that are basically ticking time bombs across the city of Chicago."

The city said it has replaced about 4,400 light poles across the city.

"The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) has completed over half of the Chicago Smart Lighting Program – a fou- year project to modernize the city's streetlight fixtures and replace more than 270,000 outdated and inefficient High Pressure Sodium streetlights with energy efficient LED light fixtures. While the project was primarily designed to improve the reliability and quality of Chicago's outdoor lighting, as part of the process, CDOT has also been assessing the condition of streetlight poles and wiring to make targeted repairs and replace poles and wiring where it's needed."

Meanwhile the other three poles at the Streeterville intersection where Keating was injured are showing signs of rust.


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