Driver Who Killed Noah Katz, 2, In Portage Park Charged With Misdemeanors

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Giddings and Central, looking west. The driver made a left turn into the south leg of the intersection (left side of this image) striking Noah Katz and his mother. Image: Google Streets View

A two-year-old boy is dead and his mother is injured after a driver blew a stop sign and failed to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk while turning left in Portage Park, according to police.

At around 4:10 p.m. Sunday, Noah Katz, 2, and his 39-year-old mother were crossing eastbound in the south leg of the southernmost intersection of Giddings Street and Centra Avenue, police said. Alexander Vasquez, 48, was driving a van westbound on Giddings.

Police say Vasquez failed to observe the stop sign and made a left turn at a high rate of speed, striking the toddler and his mother in the crosswalk. Neighbors told WGN that Vasquez dragged the boy several feet before stopping. One witness said that it appeared the driver was going to flee the scene, so he got out of his car and yelled at Vasquez to stop.

A nurse who happened to be on the scene attempted CPR on Noah Katz, WGN reported. The child was pronounced dead on the scene and his mother was transported to Lutheran General hospital in Park Ridge with injuries that appeared to be non-life-threatening, police said.

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The crash took place at the southernmost intersection of Giddings and Central. the nearest stop sign east of the crash site is at Linder. Image: Google Maps

Vasquez was issued one citation for failure to stop at a stop sign, two for failure to reduce speed, and two for failure to yield to a pedestrian in the crosswalk, police said.

Stuffed animals, flowers, and candles have been left at the intersection as a memorial. Neighbors told CBS that diamond-shaped “yield to pedestrians” signs at the intersection have not been effective.

The neighbors said more stop signs should be installed in the area to calm traffic. There is a stop sign one full block east of the crash site at Giddings and Linder Avenue.

A spokesman for local alderman John Arena’s office told CBS that the ward has been trying to improve traffic issue on Central for years. The alderman plans to work with the city’s transportation department to improve safety in the area around Giddings/Central, pending more information about the crash, the spokesman said.

“I don’t understand why a two-year-old gorgeous little tiny guy had to be killed like that,” neighbor Sharon Sands told CBS.

Update 11/14/16 4:30 PM: A reader noted that, about a quarter north of this crash site, Caroll Brown, 76, was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver while crossing Central at Ainslie Street in December 2015. It appears that the driver was never apprehended.

Fatality Tracker: 2016 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths
Pedestrian: 19 (eight were hit-and-run crashes)*
Bicyclist: 6 (one was a hit-and-run crash)

*Streetsblog Chicago’s fatality tracker is based on news reports. On November 2, the Chicago Department of Transportation announced that there had been 29 pedestrian fatalities in the city as of September 30, according to preliminary police data. CDOT has not released data on the number of hit-and-run pedestrian crashes.

  • Carter O’Brien

    These are longtime and cherished friends, this is utterly heartbreaking. I don’t know if more stop signs are the answer, as opposed to police just enforcing the ones that are routinely ignored all over Chicago. But this is a terrible, terrible stretch of Central.

    John, can you clarify what this means, I don’t understand multiple citations for individual moving violations:

    “Vasquez was issued one citation for failure to stop at a stop sign, two for failure to reduce speed, and two for failure to yield to a pedestrian in the crosswalk, police said.”

  • JeffParkNIMBY

    Worse, a solution has been in place since the 2015 Participatory Budgeting. A curb bump out for Leland and Central (the next street over) was proposed, but this required removing rush hour parking restrictions.

    John, can you get more comment from the alderman about this, and how they plan on forcing CDOT to make this change?

  • This has nearly happened to us so many times while walking with our 2 year old in our neighborhood (Pilsen). Drivers DO NOT CARE about pedestrians in the crosswalk unless that crosswalk is by a stop sign, and even then, they barely notice. We always use the crosswalk when crossing 18th Street, but at least 50% of the time, we have to wait for a number of cars to go by before anyone stops, and even then, they don’t always stop when we’re in the crosswalk. It’s horrifying.

  • Pat

    We need raised crosswalks/speed tables at stop signs.

    The only people who could be against that either don’t stop at stop signs or roll through them.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    I’m very sorry to hear that this tragedy involved friends of yours. I believe the two counts for failure to reduce speed and failure to yield refer to the two victims.

  • Carter O’Brien

    Thanks John, that makes sense. And I’m just a loss for words, except to say that I have been right at this intersection multiple times with these folks and we’ve all noted how ridiculously fast traffic goes on this stretch.

    We have a similar situation on Kimball at Wellington in terms of speeding and reckless driving. A greenway on Wellington and a pedestrian safety improvement for the intersection made the cut in the 35th ward PB process, it can’t happen soon enough.

  • R

    John, you even covered the fatal pedestrian incident in December of 2015 just a block-ish north of this fatality on Central, the exact same street that has 4 lanes with rush hour restrictions that CDOT does not want to remove http://chi.streetsblog.org/2015/12/08/hit-and-run-driver-fatally-struck-senior-in-jefferson-park/

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Good point, I’ll add an update noting that. It’s not clear that high speeds on Central were a factor in the crash, since the driver was coming from Giddings. But it’s possible his decision to make a dangerously fast left turn onto Central was influenced by high-speed traffic coming from the north or south.

  • 1976boy

    I really can’t understand why if someone runs a stop sign and kills a person legally in a crosswalk, that they are not charged with homicide.

  • “The neighbors said more stop signs should be installed in the area to calm traffic.”

    I don’t buy it. More stop signs are the last thing anyone wants. And the last thing anyone should want. No one actually wants to stop at them, and it’s possible to design a street infrastructure and a culture that makes them wholly unnecessary.

    CDOT is already kinda doing this (well, I think they’ve removed one stop sign, for the Berteau neighborhood greenway).

  • Phil Huckelberry

    I haven’t read through every single comment, but one of the things which needs to be emphasized here: That intersection at Giddings is a very short distance – perhaps 50 feet – from the southernmost exit of the Jewel parking lot at Central and Lawrence. It is very common for “parallel left turns” off of Giddings and out of the Jewel parking lot to occur, and having pulled out of that parking lot on many occasions, that’s an extremely dangerous setup.

    There needs to be an exit out of the parking lot onto Giddings, marked right and left turn lanes at the end of Giddings, and a ban on left turns out of the Jewel parking lot.

  • Pat

    Agreed. Stop signs obviously do nothing when people don’t obey them.

    However, I think they can do some good at high pedestrian intersections where only crosswalks exist. Drivers are loath to stop for pedestrians unless there is some sort of control like a stop sign.

  • Carter O’Brien

    The proliferation of stop signs is fairly new/within my lifetime. I think they essentially mirror the reduction of flesh and blood police dedicated to traffic law enforcement.

    Many intersections had no stop signs, or only had stop signs for one street. As they have essentially become ubiquitous, people have treated them like speed humps (if that).

    The main cultural problem we have here is regarding the enforcement – as several have noted, you run a stop sign and kill a small child and you are only charged with a misdemeanor? In what universe does that make sense?

  • Pat

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.

    If the CPD can’t enforce the traffic laws in the Loop, where there are the most pedestrians (albeit the vehicle speeds may be generally slower), what hope do the outlying neighborhoods have?

  • I think the alderman is doing the right thing by building bumpouts. It’s too bad that bumpouts are nearly always a responses to a tragedy.

    Hundreds of intersections have been rebuilt in the last decade, yet only a handful have gotten bumpouts, because of special projects. The remainder were rebuilt to make them accessible and ADA compliant. This was the perfect opportunity for the city administration, in collaboration with 50 city councilors, to create bumpouts.

  • Carter O’Brien

    It’s not a can’t, it’s a don’t – and it’s by design. Daley decided in the 90s that CPD was too expensive for traffic management and that’s why we have the IMO largely ineffectual TMA.

  • Pat

    Its not about management, its about enforcement. I’m not aware that that TMA can even write tickets for moving violations.

    We need officers to just stand near intersections, point and pull drivers to the side, and ticket them for improper turns (especially the center lane), blocking the box/crosswalks, and blocking bike lanes.

  • Carter O’Brien

    I completely agree, I think we’re saying the same thing. CPD brass has made the managerial decision not to allocate officers for this purpose, so the current lack of enforcement, which as you correctly note is unable to occur at the moment, is in fact a management strategy – a bad one.

  • Guy Ross

    I propose that stop signs even make things worse. Especially at for way intersections, law breakers are led to believe that even if another car is approaching an intersection, it will surely not be as macho as themselves and will give way. A survival of the fittest at each intersection. If an incident does happen, it is a he said – she said battle.

    Where there exist no stop signs, then all parties must yield to the right. This forces each and every person navigating the intersection to slow in order to not be responsible if they are hit by a car from the right. It’s an automatic response of self-preservation enforced by design.

    Random high- volume intersection from Sweden:
    https://www.google.de/maps/place/Malm%C3%B6,+Schweden/@55.598829,13.0129933,3a,60y,167.79h,86.2t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sT-m7_YxRCTZM8kyKMY4x6w!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!4m5!3m4!1s0x4653a11136ef19ef:0xbadc68b2196607f6!8m2!3d55.5790534!4d13.0108705

  • Christina M Frangos

    I am deeply heartbroken and feel for this family. This sickens me to the core. My 7 year old was hit by a CPS teacher while crossing in a crosswalk in front of her school (The Chicago Academy at Austin & Cornelia) on February 16, 2016. According to witnesses, she was thrown 15 feet up in the air and 25 feet across! I am grateful every day that she lived to see another day. I will never stop hearing my son’s cry on the other end of the phone telling me his sister was hit by a car, face covered in blood and screaming he didn’t know if she was alright. I immediately left work, my supervisor driving me, and it was the longest ride from Chinatown to Lutheran General Hospital., It doesn’t matter how many stop signs are put up. If people don’t want to obey them, they won’t. People fly down Austin ALL OF THE TIME. They fly through red lights, fly through crosswalks, and have no regard for human life. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/97d52324e3aae62c8f9c169a33250599079c9bd35bfd3787b92047275189bad6.jpg

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