Firefighter charged in fatal crash was on medication, weaving, speeding
BY CASEY TONER firstname.lastname@example.org March 4, 2013 8:32PM
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: March 4, 2013 8:32PM
A firefighter who had taken prescription pain medication was weaving between lanes and driving 25 mph above the speed limit before causing a crash that killed a 25-year-old Downers Grove woman on Friday, prosecutors said Monday.
Bail was set at $250,000 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 due in court again Thursday at the Cook County courthouse in Bridgeview.
Bruce was driving a Lincoln Navigator east on 167th Street, going 60 mph in a 35 mph zone, when he began weaving between lanes, prosecutors said Monday in a hearing before Circuit Court Judge Israel Desierto at the Cook County Criminal Courts Building in Chicago.
Patrick was nearing 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 lieutenant in the Orland Fire Protesction District and part-time deputy chief in the Crestwood Fire Department, 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 because of an on-the-job accident, Orland fire district spokesman Ray Hanania said in a statement. Bruce had 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 a lieutenant in the Orland Fire Protection District. He attended Monday’s hearing but declined to comment.
Patrick Bruce’s attorney, Steve Eberhardt, also declined to 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 got out of the car and tried to remove Knox, 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.
Contributing: Mike Nolan