Chicago Presbyterian Church Sued by Fiance of Woman Who Was Killed by Falling Gargoyle Stone

Sara Bean, the South Loop resident killed when a piece of stone fell from the Second Presbyterian Church as she walked by.
Sara Bean, the South Loop resident killed when a piece of stone fell from the Second Presbyterian Church as she walked by.

The fiancé of a woman who was killed by masonry that fell off the historic Second Presbyterian Church in the South Loop/Near South community on Sept. 4 has filed suit against both the church and the Presbytery of Chicago, which oversees Presbyterian churches in the area and serves as regional governing body of the Presbyterian Church USA.

Sara Bean, 34, lived a few blocks down across the street and was walking beside the church at 1936 S. Michigan Ave. about noon that Thursday with her fiancé, Lance Johnson, when a piece of stone from a gargoyle adorning the church fell and struck Bean on the head.

Witnesses reported rushing to help the couple and finding her wounded and on the ground. She was transported in critical condition to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Johnson’s lawsuit, filed Sept. 8 in Cook County Circuit Court, claims the Second Presbyterian Church of Chicago and Presbytery of Chicago were negligent in their ownership of the church building by allowing the exterior wall to “exist in a dangerous and unrepaired condition.”

The Gothic Revival style Second Presbyterian Church dates to 1874 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It counts Mary Todd Lincoln and Marshall Field among the notables who worshipped there.

Bean’s family said she was the mother of two boys, ages 10 and 14, and she and Johnson were planning to marry. He is the father of one of her sons.

Bean worked at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, which issued a statement through spokesperson Kathleen Keenan noting Bean had worked there for seven years, “most recently as a nursing support tech in the pediatric intensive care unit. Because of the nature of their work, this is an especially closeknit unit, and she was beloved by many. Her loss is deeply felt.”

The Rev. David M. Neff, interim pastor of the church, said officials contacted a structural engineer following the accident to examine the building. Workers erected scaffolding around the building, and he said all necessary precautions would be taken.

“All I can say is, our prayers are going out” to Bean’s friends and family, Rev. Neff stated, declining to comment on what the engineer may have found. He referred the Gazette to a statement on the church website expressing support for Bean’s family. “Our deep sorrow, heartfelt sympathy, and continued prayers go out to her family and friends,” it said in part.

“Our congregation is hurting,” said William Tyre, an elder in the church. “Our hearts and prayers go out to the family and friends of the woman who died.”

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SOURCE: Gazette Chicago
Dermot Connolly

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