Prosecutors: Firefighter charged in fatal crash was on medication and was speeding
BY CASEY TONER firstname.lastname@example.org March 4, 2013 12:30PM
Orland Fire Protection District and Crestwood firefighter Patrick Bruce, 45, is facing felony reckless homicide charges in a crash that killed a 25-year-old Downers Grove resident Friday. | Provided photo
Updated: April 6, 2013 6:18AM
A ranking Orland Fire Protection District and Crestwood firefighter took prescription pain medication, weaved between lanes and drove 25 mph above the speed limit before causing a crash Friday that killed a 25-year-old Downers Grove woman, prosecutors said.
Bail was set at $250,000 Monday for Patrick Bruce, 45, of Oak Forest, who was charged Sunday with reckless homicide, failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident, and reckless driving.
He is next due in court Thursday at the Cook County courthouse in Bridgeview.
In a hearing Monday before Circuit Court Judge Israel Desierto at the Cook County Criminal Courts Building in Chicago, prosecutors said Bruce was driving a Lincoln Navigator east on 167th Street, going 60 mph in a 35-mph zone, when he began weaving between lanes.
Patrick was nearing the intersection at Lockwood Avenue when he slammed into a white Hummer in front of him, crossed into oncoming traffic and hit an Oldsmobile driven by Anasis Knox, according to prosecutors.
Knox died from injuries suffered in the crash, and the driver of the Hummer suffered a concussion and a cracked vertebrae, officials said.
Bruce, a full-time Orland fire district lieutenant and part-time Crestwood Fire Department deputy chief, said he took prescription pain medication before the crash, according to prosecutors.
He has been on leave from the Orland fire district since July 4 due to an on-the-job accident, Orland fire district spokesman Ray Hanania said in a statement. Bruce also has not been working for Crestwood because of his injury, Crestwood Trustee Lou Presta said.
Bruce is scheduled to undergo shoulder surgery later this month.
Bruce’s brother, Jon Bruce, is the Crestwood fire chief, and also is an Orland Fire Protection District lieutenant. He attended Monday’s hearing but declined comment.
Patrick Bruce’s attorney, Steve Eberhardt, also declined comment.
Patrick Bruce is married to a teacher, and he and his wife have two children, ages 2 and 4, Eberhardt told Desierto.
Hanania said the Orland Fire Protection District is cooperating with police in their investigation. Patrick had not been disciplined as of Monday for his role in the crash, Hanania said.
Crestwood village services director Bill Graffeo declined to say whether Patrick would be disciplined. Presta said Patrick has been a “dedicated fireman” for Crestwood and “it’s a tragedy what happened.”
Knox’s stepfather, Eric Hooper, was a passenger in Knox’s car and said she had cashed her tax return and was driving to a car dealership when the accident happened.
“I saw the black SUV in a spin and it shot straight at our car,” said Hooper, who attended Monday’s hearing.
After the crash, Hooper said he exited the car and tried to remove Knox from the vehicle but she was unconscious and stuck inside.
“I ran out in the street hollering, ‘Call 911, call 911,’ ” he said. “Her mouth was twisted and she had a lot of blood coming out of her mouth.”
Knox’s father, Timothy Knox Nyholm, said he wanted to see Bruce “pay for what he did.”
“It’s his job to save and protect lives, and he took one and it was reckless,” Nyholm said. “There’s no other way to put it.”
Knox’s sister, Tenika Knox-Johnson, said Knox worked at a Steak and Shake and was studying human resource management online at Colorado Technical University. She said Knox loved children and writing poetry.
Visitation for Knox will be from 4 to 9 p.m. Friday at Gatlin Funeral Home, 10133 S. Halsted St., Chicago. A funeral service will be held from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday at the funeral home. Burial arrangements were pending.
Knox is survived by Nyholm, Knox-Johnson, her sisters Chantell Knox and Sidney Nyholm, and her brother Dylan Nyholm.
Contributing: Mike Nolan