SOX PARK — Ernest Wilkins’ trip to Tuesday’s White Sox game turned into “absolute pandemonium,” he said.
The lifelong Sox fan was outside the stadium gates around 6:20 p.m. for the team’s game against the Texas Rangers when the driver of a silver sedan revved its engine and sped eastbound on 35th Street through the crowd, hitting four people, police said.
Wilkins had just swiped his ticket and turned to see the sedan send a person airborne, he said.
“People were hit and all you could hear were screams,” Wilkins said. “In that moment, every single Chicagoan, no matter their age, color, if they were selling tickets or water, ran to those people. It was like ‘The Avengers.’ A bunch of Sox jerseys sprinted to help.”
Four pedestrians — two men and two women — were injured in the hit-and-run and taken to local hospitals in serious to critical condition, police said.
One of the victims flipped into the air and landed partially in the sedan’s sunroof, police Deputy Chief Fred Melean said. He was “inside the car partially when the offenders fled,” Melean said.
The driver continued east on 35th Street after the hit-and-run, police said. State troopers and SWAT officers stopped the driver around 47th Street on the Dan Ryan Expressway, where he was arrested and taken to a local hospital, Melean said.
The driver, Condelarious Garcia, 20, was charged late Wednesday with four felony counts of aggravated reckless driving, a misdemeanor count of driving on a suspended license and three citations, police said.
The three passengers in the car, in their early- and mid-20s, also were taken to local hospitals in fair condition, police said.
Melean said detectives are investigating but police do not believe the driver targeted the victims.
A person who introduced himself as a doctor performed CPR on victims as the sedan sped away, Wilkins said. Wilkins consoled an injured fan’s wife as paramedics and police rushed to the scene, he said.
“Everyone was still breathing,” Wilkins said. “It could have been worse.”
Wilkins is now calling on the Sox and the city to close off 35th Street to cars near the stadium on game days.
“Shut it down,” Wilkins said. “You can stop a bad thing from happening again. Block off the street. There’s no reason for it.”
The incident prompted Ald. Nicole Lee (11th), whose ward includes the park, to call a meeting “within the week” with the White Sox, Chicago Department of Transportation and city emergency response agencies to discuss traffic concerns in the area, she said.
Lee said “nothing is off the table” when it comes to shutting down the street or at least lowering the 30 mile-per-hour speed limit nearby.
“I’m not opposed to closing it,” Lee said. “This was a horrific incident that didn’t have to happen.”
The White Sox released a statement Tuesday a few hours after the incident.
“Our hearts go out to the four fans who were injured this evening, their families and friends, as well as the fans who witnesses the incident on their way to a baseball game,” the statement said. “The Chicago White Sox organization expresses its appreciation to the Chicago Police Department, the Chicago Fire Department, the Illinois State Police and others, including fans, who responded to the incident and provided immediate care for the victims.”
On Wednesday, a team spokesperson said Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications determines traffic flow around the stadium on game days.
“We do want to make sure fans are aware that most can access the ballpark through the Gate 5 entrance on the north side of the street, walking across the walkway to the seating area,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “If fans prefer, this route allows them to avoid crossing any traffic.”
A city spokesperson said the agency is working with police and the White Sox to “evaluate traffic control around the park with safety as our top priority.”
“Last night’s hit-and-run crash was an isolated incident,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “The Chicago Police Department will continue maintaining sufficient public safety resources in the area of Guaranteed Rate Field during game days.”
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