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Woman Killed By Falling Piece Of Gargoyle Statue Outside Church

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A 34-year-old woman died Thursday afternoon after falling masonry hit her on the head outside a church in the South Loop neighborhood.

Part of a gargoyle statue struck the woman in the head after falling from the Second Presbyterian Church of Chicago at 19th and Michigan, just after noon.

Killed was Sarah Bean of Chicago, a mother of two, who was just a few blocks away from home when the incident occurred.

Sarah Bean
Sarah Bean (Credit: Facebook)

Her fiance, Lance Johnson, tells CBS 2 the two were walking when a gust of wind could be felt.

"I felt like something happened. I looked back and she was on the ground," he said.

A spokeswoman for the city's Building Department says a chain reaction was to blame for the falling stone. A corner of one of the metal decorative pieces on the exterior of the building gave way, striking a gargoyle statue on the southeast corner of the steeple and causing a portion of it to fall. The church is more than 100 years old.

"There have been no violations or critical issues," church pastor David Neff tells CBS 2's Mike Parker. "We're just saying prayers for the woman."

The church failed inspections between 2007 and 2011, but an inspection in October 2013 found no violations.

"You can check the reports and you can check a façade, and occasionally something happens," Building Commissioner Felicia Davis said Friday.

Bean was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

One of her family members was left wondering if the fatal accident could have been prevented.

"If it wasn't my sister it would have been someone else's sister. The fact of the matter is, someone didn't do their job," the victim's brother, Michael Willis, said Friday.

Protective scaffolding surrounded the church's perimeter. The church has hired a structural engineer to assess the entire building.

The city's building commissioner issued a warning to building owners: Even if a consultant or architect has inspected your building and given it the all-clear, check it yourself and pay extreme caution to exposed or hanging elements.


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