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Woman Killed By Falling Stone From Second Presbyterian Church

By Chuck Sudo in News on Sep 5, 2014 3:10PM

Photo credit: Ann Hilton Fisher

A 34-year-old mother of two was killed Thursday in a freak accident when a piece of a gargoyle fell from a landmark church and struck her square on the head. Sarah Bean died almost instantly when the piece of stone fell from Second Presbyterian Church around noon. Bean was heading to lunch with her boyfriend, Lance Johnson. The couple lived blocks from the church.

An eyewitness who called 911, Crystal Harris, described the scene to the Sun-Times.

"He was trying to get cars to stop to help, but they kept going. They must have thought he was a crazy person. He stepped into traffic and one of the cars honked at him, and he threw his umbrella into the air.”

“She was just lying there with her head split open,” she added, referring to Bean.

Bean was declared dead at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. She leaves behind two sons with Johnson, ages 9 and 14, and was described by family and friends as dedicated to her children and boyfriend, whom she planned to marry. The Tribune reports a piece of decorative metal came loose from the church’s outside wall, which fell and knocked off the chunk of stone that killed Bean. The Trib also notes the Gothic Revival-designed church failed a string of inspections from 2007 through 2011. A February 2010 inspection found “fractures, washed out mortar at various locations, spalling (flaking) stone at various locations at (north, south, east and west) tower elevations” along the church’s outside walls.

Second Presbyterian was granted National Landmark status last year primarily for its interior design. The Department of the Interior said it contains "some of the best examples of Arts and Crafts mural painting, sculpture and stained glass" highlighted by nine Tiffany windows.