Witnesses discuss George Sawicki’s bike crash death near Soldier Field

George Sawicki. Image: ABC Chicago
George Sawicki. Image: ABC Chicago

Update 9/2/21, 3 PM: A Streetsblog reader alerted us that George Sawicki’s Strava app records indicate that Museum Campus Drive was part of a bike route that he rode on a regular basis.

Image: Strava
Image: Strava

Witnesses to the bike crash that killed George Sawicki, 70, on a road next to Soldier Field last Wednesday evening, corroborated the initial Chicago Police Department statement that the victim “struck a parked truck.”

The police initially stated that at about 5:19 p.m. on Wednesday, August 17, Sawicki was biking north on the 1400 block of South Museum Campus Drive, a few hundred feet west of the Lakefront Trail, when he hit the stopped vehicle.

The victim, who lived on Hyde Park Boulevard near the lakefront, was taken to Northwestern Hospital where he was pronounced dead, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

According to a University of Chicago spokesperson, Sawicki worked in various positions at the university between 1969 and 2011, most recently as senior research technologist.

Responding officers issued the truck driver a citation for stopping in a no parking / standing zone, police said.

The narrative on the crash report provides additional information. The truck driver was a 45-year-old man who lives in southwest-suburban Oak Lawn. (Streetsblog Chicago typically doesn’t publish the names of drivers from fatal crashes who haven’t been charged with felonies.) He told the responding officers that while his semi truck was parked facing north on the road at 1431 S. Museum Campus Drive. with an attached trailer, Sawicki rode a red-and-white Scott bicycle “head first right into the rear end of the truck… At that time the driver and two other witnesses hurried to [the victim] to administer CPR after notifying [emergency medical services.]” The report adds that after Sawicki was hospitalized, his sister came to the hospital, where she collected his bike and other belongings.

The two witnesses listed on the crash report are Chicagoan resident Marco Marin and Thechelet Sainvil of West Palm Beach, Florida. Both men are employees of Marquee Rental, an event supply company, and said they were at the stadium to pick up tents from an outdoor function at the venue, plus the bricks used to anchor the tents. Marin said the semi driver is a Marquee employee.

The crash location. Image: Google Maps
The 1400 block of South Museum Campus Drive. Image: Google Maps

The crash report diagram indicates that the semi truck, which Sainvil said had a container box on its trailer, was parked in the center of Museum Campus Drive when Sawicki struck it. However the Marquee employees said the semi was actually parked in the rightmost of the two northbound lanes so that other drivers were able to pass it.

Diagram of the crash from the police report. While the truck is shown parked in the middle of the street, the witnesses said it was parked in the right lane.
Diagram of the crash from the police report. While the truck is shown parked in the middle of the street, witnesses said it was parked in the right lane.

Marin and Sainvil said a Soldier Field security worker had explained how to access the job site, so the two men went over to the semi driver to explain the situation. “We were setting up the game plan,” Marin said. While they were standing on the driver’s side talking to the trucker through the window, they heard a loud noise. Marin said he thought someone was trying to break into the truck.

Sainvil said he looked back to see what had happened, but didn’t immediately realize it was a person on a bike. “I saw something moving, and then I saw it was a person who was bleeding.”

Marin recalled Sainvil yelling “Call 911! Call 911!” When Marin went to investigate, he saw Sawicki was moving. “I got scared because he was breathing loud.” Marin called for help. He said the next time he saw the victim, he was gasping for breath every 30 seconds.

Marin said a man in a military-style uniform showed up in a truck and began to assist Sawicki, cutting open his shirt and performing CPR. Marin and Sainvil both recalled seeing a red mark, possibly a scar, across the victim’s abdomen. Marin said an ambulance arrived about ten minutes after the crash.

According to Marin, the semi driver took the next day off of work “because he was heartbroken about what happened. It took me, like, three days to get over it myself because it was so sad. Someone lost their family member.”

Sainvil and Marin said they had no idea why Sawicki hit the truck. “He had plenty of room to pass,” Marin said. “I have questions about what happened. It’s confusing.”

One potential clue as to why Sawicki was riding on Museum Campus Drive rather than the Lakefront Trail is provided by an April 2019 ABC interview with him after a pair of robberies on the Lakefront Trail near 47th Street. “I heard about it this morning from one of the engineers in our building,” Sawicki told ABC. “I live right on the Lakefront. I ride a lot, so I have a pretty good sense of what to look out for.” It’s possible Sawicki was cycling on Museum Campus Drive in an effort to avoid more isolated parts of the path.

Thanks to attorneys Michael Keating and Brendan Kevenides for input on this case.

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