Fatal 4th

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Four die — including two from area — in Bridgeview crash on 4th of July

  Bridgeview police continue to investigate the causePAGE-1-2-col-color-double-run-memoriaA candle, flowers and some of the debris from a fatal accident make up a memorial for victims in a Fourth of July crash that claimed four lives. Photo by Jeff Vorva. of a fatal Fourth of July collision that claimed the lives of four individuals, including a Worth and a Palos Hills resident.
  Police, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office and an accident reconstruction unit are still looking into what led to the crash, which occurred at 5:25 p.m. Friday in the 8200 block of South Harlem Avenue.
  Police refused further comment on Tuesday afternoon, saying they would provide more information to the media when it becomes available.
  Flowers, candles and red, wooden hearts with the names of the victims painted on them were placed at the scene on Saturday.
  A group of area residents brought flowers to the crash scene Saturday afternoon and the tribute remained there throughout the week.
  The collision claimed the lives Aiman Salem, 21, of Worth, Alaa Mustafa Alkhatib, 24, of Palos Hills, Maria Gonzalez, 52, and Hector Gonzalez, 48, both of Chicago, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.
  A 13-year-old boy, the son of Maria and Hector Gonzalez, suffered broken bones and required stitches in his forehead, according to reports.
  The crash happened when a 2010 Camaro traveling north on Harlem Avenue, driven by Salem with Alkatib as a passenger, collided head on with a Dodge pickup truck, driven by Hector Gonzalez, which was traveling in the southbound lanes, police said.
  All four victims were pronounced dead on the scene, police said.
  Hector and Maria Gonzalez were on their way to a family Fourth of July barbecue when the Camaro crashed into their truck, according to reports.
  Witnesses said it appeared the Camaro was racing another car on the street before the crash, though police have not confirmed that possibility.
  “It didn’t have to happen,” witness Lorie Heklowski told NBC Chicago. “It’s sad that the white pickup and their family are suffering because somebody chose to, you know, race drag down the street.”
  Heklowski told NBC that witnesses found the teen alive in the pickup truck after the crash and cut him out of his seatbelt.
  “I was by [the witnesses], talking to [the boy], trying to tell him to stay calm, stay down because he kept trying to get up,” she said.
  Several Gonzalez family members brought candles and flowers to the crash scene. Four wooden hearts painted red and printed with the names of the deceased were set up next to a nearby road sign by Saturday morning.
  A group of area residents brought flowers to the crash scene Saturday afternoon.
  The wakes for Salem and Alkhatib took place Saturday night at Hann Funeral Home in Bridgeview. Funeral services were held Sunday at the Bridgeview mosque with interment at Parkholm Cemetery in La Grange Park.

Caught in the web(site)

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Worth officials delay a $24K decision to revamp their site

Worth officials on Tuesday put on hold the approval of an agreement with a company selected to redesign the village’s website.
Trustees agreed to delay for two weeks a vote on a $24,453 contract with CivicPlus, a company that specializes in website development for municipalities.
Locally, the company has developed websites for Evergreen Park and Chicago Ridge, the latter which went live earlier this year.
Trustee Mary Rhein’s concerns about not knowing enough about the company led trustees to delay the vote.
“To me, it seems a little hefty,” said Rhein, who pointed out that the contract was $453 dollars over the amount budgeted for a redesign.
She added that she’d like to see a brochure or other materials from the firm before casting a vote.
“Twenty four thousand dollars to me is a lot of money,” Rhein said. “I don’t know what else is out there.”
Mayor Mary Werner said the village did its due diligence on the company. She spoke with the mayors of village’s that have hired CivicPlus and met with Worth department heads to garner their input.
“They come very highly recommended,” said Werner, who met with CivicPlus officials along with Village Clerk Bonnie Price and Police Chief Martin Knolmayer.
Knolmayer said the newly designed site would be easier to modify and is more accessible.
Trustee Colleen McElroy agreed that site offered advantages to the village and its residents.
“It’s clean. It’s very easy. It’s user-friendly,” McElroy said.
Price noted that the company would be paid as the new site was designed.
“We’re not going to cut them a check for $24,000 tomorrow,” she said.
If the CivicPlus is chosen, a new website isn’t likely to go live for several months, officials said. Chicago Ridge required a year to launch its site, but the village needed time to develop web-based forms Worth has already accomplished.

Jeff Vorva's Im-PRESS-ions: Taking some shots at (and of) soccer


Jeffs Col ImpressionsI don’t like soccer.
Now there is a swell sentiment given that so many people are going gaga for the sport because of the World Cup. I’m setting myself up for some wonderful hate mail, here. How dumb am I?
But I can’t just automatically start loving the sport after all of these years just because it’s the flavor of the month every four years. And to the soccer snobs who say “You just don’t get it,” I say that I get it. I just don’t want it.
I don’t like that a team can thoroughly dominate a match against another and settle for a nil-nil draw.
And I really hate that rule where they don’t stop the clock for something like an injury, yet the referee is the only guy in the stadium who knows how much extra time there is to play after the game is seemingly over. That’s even dumber than Major League Baseball having a designated hitter in one league and not the other.
Hey, soccer bosses, I have a nice little tip for you. There is this thing called a button you can push and it causes the clock on the scoreboard to – you aren’t going to believe this – STOP when you push it. Yeah! When a guy gets injured, the referee can signal to the timekeeper and he pushes the button and the clock stops.
Then, when everything is ready to go, the referee can signal to the timekeeper and he can push the button and the time winds down (or up) and the players, coaches and thousands of crazed soccer fans will all know how much time is in the game. BRILLIANT!
I could also make a joke about how some soccer tussles are called “friendlies” but that match last week when Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini was bitten by Uruguay’s Luis Sanchez was not one of them.
But I won’t.
I don’t like soccer but notice I didn’t say that I hated soccer.
There are two redeeming qualities to the sport.
First, there are the announcers. The guy who bellows “Goooooaaaaalllll!!!” is an international treasure even if it’s the only word that he says that most of us understand.
But I also get a kick out of the British announcers calling the action. They use unusual words and turn some interesting phrases. Where else can you hear someone say “That was a lovely ball,” when a dude makes a pass to another dude? OK, don’t answer that. But you bloody well know what I mean.
The second, and most important cool thing about soccer for me, is that I have been blessed with the opportunity to photograph the sport on a number of occasions.
Now that’s how to watch soccer – up close and personal.
Forget watching it on TV (or the telly, as the British announcers might say).
Forget about watching it from the stands.
Forget about hanging out with the other sardines at Grant Park.
On the sideline and capturing the action is the spot I want to be.
Once I went to an Illinois High School Association state semifinal boys game in Frankfort and within the first minute, I got a shot of a kid accidentally kicking another kid in the head.
For the most part, you can capture great emotional looks on players faces whether they are kicking a “lovely ball” to a teammate, crashing into an opponent or celebrating a goal.
Headers are fun to shoot. Goalies blocking a shot are cool shots, too.
Collisions are great and since these guys are not wearing padding or helmets like they do in football, it makes for some dramatic pictures.
So for those who enjoy soccer – have fun during the rest of the World Cup.
For me, the sport is only useful when it’s picture perfect.


Area survives scary weather

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  Hickory Hills Mayor Mike HowleyPage-3-3-col-cartsShopping carts are down at the Chicago Ridge Mall after Monday night’s storm. Photos by Jeff Vorva. believes the wild 2014 weather offers a marketing opportunity.

  “It’s been quite a year,” Howley said Tuesday morning. “This could be good for someone who makes t-shirts. They can come up with something like ‘I survived the Weather in 2014.’”
  Howley was comfortable jesting a bit about Monday’s night’s torrential storms because, for the most part, Hickory Hills and the other towns in the Reporter’s coverage area escaped significant damage.
  “We fared fairly well,” Howley said. “Although there are 1,400 people without power who might not agree with me. There was no major damage reported.”
Page-1-2-col-branchesDowned branches and limbs lie before a sign at Calvin Christian Reformed Church in Oak Lawn Tuesday after a storm hit the area Monday night.  Oak Lawn also escaped significant damage. Approximately 1,300 Oak Lawn homes were without power as of late Tuesday morning, and there was tree and power line damage throughout the community, officials said.
  “This storm could have definitely been worse,” said Oak Lawn Police Lt. Art Clark, the village’s emergency management coordinator. “There are other communities around the area that suffered more damage and power outages.”
  One of those towns was Worth, which suffered significant power outages Tuesday morning after the second wave of storms damaged power lines and poles along a stretch of Southwest Highway west of Harlem Avenue. Harlem Avenue from Palos Heights past Chicago Ridge was backed up most of the morning and afternoons because stop lights were knocked out by a power outage.
  Worth suffered the brunt of the outage.
  “It led to a significant outage in Worth,” said Village Clerk Bonnie Price. “ComEd is all over (the village).”
  Approximately 75 percent of homes and businesses were without power Tuesday morning, but electricity was being restored throughout the day, Price said.
  No injuries were reported, she said.
  Neighboring Palos Hills and Chicago Ridge experienced only minimal damage, including pockets of outages and downed tree limbs, officials said.
  Evergreen Park also escaped major storm related damage, Mayor James Sexton said.
  “It seems like (the storm) went farther south,” said Sexton, who added that about 1,000 Evergreen Park homes experienced power outages.
  “It was scary,” Sexton said.

Three of six area towns hosting fireworks for Independence Day

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  Worth, Oak Lawn and Evergreen ParkPage-1-1-xol-inset-rightThere will be literal Fourth of July fireworks at three of the six communities Thursday and Friday. Photo by Jeff Vorva. will be the places to be this weekend for Fourth of July fireworks shows and celebrations.

  Two of the other communities – Palos Hills and Chicago Ridge – will set off fireworks later in the summer during community celebrations.
  Hickory Hills will not have fireworks at all this year. Mayor Mike Howley said he’s lived in town for 46 years and can’t remember a time the city ever set them off.
  “I usually watch the fireworks in Evergreen Park and a few years ago, I reached out to the company that that provides their fireworks and asked them to swing by Hickory Hills,” Howley said. “They re-confirmed to me that the reason we don’t have fireworks here – we just don’t have enough adequate open space for us to do it. There is a danger of houses or businesses being too close. I thought we could do it somewhere, but they said there wasn’t enough space.’’
  Evergreen Park will celebrate the Fourth of July tonight, Thursday. The village has celebrated the holiday on July 3 since 1968. The sirens blaring from fire engines from throughout the southwest suburbs will signal the start of Evergreen Park’s parade.
  The parade steps at 6:30 p.m. from 95th Street and Pulaski Road and proceeds east to Francisco Avenue. The fireworks follow at dusk at Duffy Park, 9101 S. Ridgeway Ave.
  Worth will host a community picnic starting at 5 p.m. tonight, Thursday. There will be a community photo at 7 p.m. at the Terrace Center Pavillion at 7500 W. 115th St. Fireworks will begin at dusk.
  Oak Lawn will celebrate Independence Day throughout the day Friday, beginning with a parade at 10 a.m. The parade will begin on the north side of 95th Street and 51st Avenue and proceed west to 55th Court.
  The Oak Lawn Park District’s annual Star Spangled Fourth of July Celebration will be held following the parade at Centennial Park, 94th Street and Nashville Avenue.
  The day will begin with a variety of family activities from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. including a talent show, treasure hunt, watermelon eating contest, obstacle course, kid’s tattoos, carnivals games, pony rides, inflatables, bingo, crafts, magician, balloon animals and concessions.
  A fee of $5 per child (ages 3 and up) will allow for participation in all daytime activities. Adults are free. Admission to all park district pools is only $2.
  The fireworks show will be held at the Richards High School football field, 106th Street and Central Avenue. Gates will open at 6:00 p.m. Musician Dave Rudolf will take the stage at 8:15 p.m. followed by the fireworks display.
  The chance to see skyrockets, Roman candles and grand finales won’t end on Independence Day weekend.
  Palos Hills’ pyrotechnics display will be held on the final day of Friendship Fest, the village’s annual community celebration. The fest will run from July 10-13 at 107th Street and 88th Avenue.
  Fest hours are 6-10:30 p.m. July 10, 6 p.m.-midnight July 11, noon-midnight July 12 and 1-10:30 p.m. July 13. For more information, visit
  Two weeks later, a fireworks show will put an exclamation point on the Ridge Fest celebration, Chicago Ridge’s annual fest. The fest will be held July 24-27 at Freedom Park, Birmingham and Oak avenues.
  Fest hours are 5:30-10:30 p.m. Thursday, 5:30-11:30 p.m. Friday, 3-11:30 p.m. Saturday and 2-10:30 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $5 on Thursday and Sunday, $10 on Friday and $12 on Saturday. Residents with an ID will be admitted free on Sunday. For information, visit
  Worth will also host a fireworks show on the last day of Worth Days, which will be held Aug. 21-24 at 11500 S Beloit Ave. This year’s festival will celebrate the village’s 100th anniversary.
  Worth Days kicks off with the opening of the carnival from 6-10 p.m. on Aug. 21. The fest continues from 6 p.m.-midnight Aug. 22, noon-midnight Aug. 23 and 1-10:30 p.m. Aug. 24.

  Worth Days also will include a parade, live entertainment, car show, business expo and children’s activities. For information, visit