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Two vans in 47th St fatality, but only one hit victim

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La Grange police have determined that two vehicles were involved in the accident that claimed the life of a Countryside woman who was struck Tuesday morning while crossing 47th St with her two small children. But only one of the vehicles hit the victim, police said.

47th st memorial
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Police Lt. Chris Noel said today it was uncertain if any charges would be filed against an unidentified woman who was driving eastbound and struck Cari Cook, a 30-year-old mother, as she was lifting her children's stroller onto the southside curb of 47th St near 8th Ave. Cook was in the southern outside lane of the four-lane roadway.

A second vehicle involved in the accident also was traveling eastbound in the inner lane alongside the first vehicle. Noel said the first vehicle sideswiped the second one, possibly as its driver attempted to avoid striking Cook.

Full results of an investigation La Grange police are conducting in conjunction with Illinois State Police and the State's Attorney's office will not be available until next week, Noel said.

In the early stages of the investigation police had explored the possibility that Cook had been struck by two different vehicles, based on accounts provided by witnesses to the accident. There also had been a report that one vehicle left the scene without stopping. But neither scenario was supported by the evidence, Noel said.

He added that there were no indications that the drivers involved were impaired by alcohol or drugs, nor was there evidence that either driver was distracted by using a cell phone or other device at the time of the accident.

Radio station WBBM reported today that Cook's sister, Maggie Stevens, "believes the 45-year-old woman who was driving the vehicle that hit Cari must have been distracted by something [and] wants answers about the accident." 

Noel said the driver whose vehicle struck Cook stopped immediately after hitting Cook and provided assistance.

Cook was transported to Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital where she died from her injuries at 1:20 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.

Cook's four-month-old son, Carson, who was secured in a front baby carrier worn by his mother, was treated for a fractured leg. Her two-year-old daughter, Ellie, who was seated in the stroller, escaped harm in the accident.

Police at this time would not identify the makes or models of the vehicles involved, but the vehicle that struck Cook was described as a gray minvan by Jeff Madix, who resides in the home on the southeast corner of 47th St and 8th Ave where the accident occurred. Madix also described the second vehicle as a full-sized commercial van with a rack on its roof.

Madix said he did not witness the accident but arrived home only minutes later as police and rescue workers were responding.

Madix said Tuesday's accident was the second time a traffic-related fatality has happened literally on his doorstep since he and his wife, Cheri, moved into their home nearly 25 years ago.

In the late-1980's, a girl riding a bicycle on the sidewalk across 47th St from their house was struck and killed by a car when she suddenly veered down a driveway onto the road's westbound lanes, Madix said.

The girl's lifeless body landed at the foot of Madix's own driveway, mere feet from the spot where Cari Cook lay dying Tuesday.

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Fixing 47th Street

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One immediate response from village officials to the accident that killed Cari Lyn Cook was to erect several bright yellow plastic signs between the lanes of 47th St to call attention to an often ignored pedestrian crosswalk that was created three years ago at the intersection with 9th Ave. At a meeting to address citizens' concerns about traffic safety, some attendees wanted the signs removed because they believed they would confuse motorists and increase rather reduce opportunities for accidents. Officials have since taken away four of the signs; only the two on the center line remain.

 

By Thom Rae
La Grange Today Publisher

The death of Cari Lyn Cook brought to a boiling point years of concern and frustration felt by La Grange residents over the dangers pedestrians and bicyclists face while traveling along and across 47th St—feelings expressed at upteen public meetings with little to show in response.

"Does someone have to die before they do something?" was a rhetorical question often heard as parents watched children darting across the street's four lanes and dodging the often heavy traffic that plies the half-mile stretch between East Ave and La Grange without a single traffic signal.

But when Cook, a 30-year old wife and mother from Countryside, was struck and killed by a silver SUV shortly before noon on a weekday morning in May while crossing 47th St at 8th Ave with her two small children and the family dog, frustration and rhetoric turned instantly to grief and then headed in the direction of anger.

Village officials felt the heat rising and called for a special "neighborhood" meeting of residents who live near 47th St. But anyone who has ever travelled its length knows that 47th is not a simple neighborhood street. It's a thoroughfare for commuters and trucks whose drivers hail from communities across the region. Its pedestrians and cyclists also often come from neighboring towns such as Brookfield, Western Springs and, as was the case with Cari Cook, from Countryside.

More than 200 residents of La Grange and neighboring communities turned out for a special meeting June 2 to discuss ways to improve pedestrian safety along 47th St. About three dozen attendees, including the woman pictured above, stepped up to a microphone to share their concerns and ideas with village officials.

So it should have surprised no one who attended the special meeting held Tuesday night in the gymnasium of Seventh Ave School that more than 200 people from all over had filled the seats and lined the walls looking for answers to the dangerous dilemma that is 47th St. Included in the crowd was Cari Cook's husband, Matt, accompanied by several other of her family members and friends.

The road is a dilemma for local officials in no small part because control of it also rests outside the village, specifically in the hands of the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). So village officials smartly invited some state representatives to attend the meeting, and two of them did.

The meeting, which lasted more than two hours, was used partly to explain the unique problems 47th St presents, partly to reveal some solutions officials have in mind, and partly to hear what solutions residents and other concerned citizens had to offer. More than 30 of them did.

In this special multimedia report, you will find reports about the meeting and accident that triggered it. Simply click on links contained in the index located in the yellow sidebar under our logo at the top of the page.

We'll also continue to update this special report with new information as the story develops.

We welcome your comments. Clicking here will take you to a central post in our newsblog that links to this report. You'll find a place to express your comments at the bottom of the post.

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Matt Cook presents petition and ideas at village meeting to improve pedestrian safety on 47th St

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June 06, 2009

Listen to an audio recording of Matt Cook's remarks to those who attended a special meeting June 2 to discuss ways 47th St could be made safer for pedestrians.


Of the nearly 40 residents of La Grange and neighboring communities who stepped to the microphone at Tuesday night's meeting to share their concerns and ideas on how to improve traffic safety along 47th St was Matt Cook of Countryside.

Matt cook closeup 060209bMatt Cook

The death of his wife, Cari, who was struck and killed May 19 by a vehicle while crossing 47th St at 8th Ave with the couple's two small children and the family dog, along the resulting cries from residents that something be done to make the street safer for pedestrians, prompted village officials to hold the special meeting in the gymnasium of the Seventh Ave School, not far from where the accident occurred.

While some of the more than 200 people in attendance learned of the meeting from a letter mailed by the village to about 700 households in the neighborhoods along E 47th St, many were present because of the efforts of Cook and a group of family members and friends.

Just days after Cari Cook's funeral, they began to knock on doors in those neighborhoods seeking support for a petition they drafted urging local officials to make necessary changes to the roadway.

They quickly learned about the Pet Parade, which was held May 30 in downtown La Grange, and focused their petition efforts there. By Tuesday night's meeting they had gathered some 250 signatures.

In addressing the crowd that night, Cook shared some of the ideas his group had come up with. Topping the list, he said, was a reduction in the speed limit along along 47th St, which currently is 35 mph.

Bob Pilipiszyn, village manager, earlier had told the audience that a 30-mph limit was being considered, the lowest speed allowed for a state-maintained thoroughfare.

An effective police presence to enforce the enforce the speed limit also was needed, Cook said.

Police Chief Michael Holub earlier told the gathering that traffic enforcement efforts were hampered by the fact that no more than four patrol cars generally were on the streets at any given time.

Because the four north-south streets that intersect 47th St between La Grange Rd and East Ave are offset from one side of the road to the other, Cook also advocated pedestrian crosswalks with curb cuts placed mid-block to align with sidewalks across the street.

Such a crosswalk might have prevented his wife's accident. Cari Cook was hit while lifting a stroller containing their two-year old daughter, Ellie, onto the curb several yards east of where 8th Ave and its sidewalks intersect with 47th St.

In fact, that very type of crosswalk already exists at 9th Ave, one block east of where the accident occurred. It was installed by village officials three years ago in response to an earlier petition drive from residents, and was done so without the consent of state highway officials. But it also is the only crosswalk anywhere along 47th St that has no traffic signal.

When Matt Cook suggested that village officials install crosswalks where pedestrians can activate a stop light, someone shouted for a show of hands in support. Almost everyone in the audience raised a hand and loud applause soon followed.

After the meeting, Cook said that launching the petition drive "took my mind off the pain that I was feeling at the time and gave me something to focus on. That was really my motivation for this."

He said that while soliciting signatures at the Pet Parade, "I met a lot of people that were touched in some way or another by [his wife's accident]. There were cries, hugs, some people shared similar experiences. It was sad but at the same time it gave us some strength."

Cook said that his group will continue to collect petition signatures, possibly through a website. Already there is a website, cookfamilyfund.com, where friends and family members share recollections of Cari and are raising money to pay future expenses for the couple's two children.

"Something has to be done to prevent this from happening to someone else ever again," Cook said. "I thought that with community support something could be accomplished."

Cook would not comment on the police investigation into the accident, which is still ongoing.

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Cari Lyn Cook (Stevens)
(1978-2009)

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