Girl, 7, fatally struck by tractor driven by city contractor

A 7-year-old girl died after being hit Friday morning in West Englewood by a tractor being driven by a man who works for a city contractor.

Samyra Lee and her mother were crossing Ashland Avenue at 65th Street against the traffic signal at 7:47 a.m., authorities said.

They were waiting in the middle of the intersection to finish crossing when the girl was hit by the trailer of the tractor as it was headed south on Ashland, police said.

The girl and her mother were heading to school at Providence Englewood Charter School, 6515 S. Ashland, though parents said most students had already arrived and were in school at the time of the accident.

Samyra was taken to the University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital, where she was pronounced dead, authorities said.

One woman, Emma Lofton, said she was leaving the school after dropping off her grandsons and niece, and saw a woman in the middle of Ashland, in the crosswalk, holding the bloodied body of her daughter near the tractor and screaming for an ambulance.
“It messed me up, to walk out and see the baby there, and her momma holding her,” Lofton said. “I hope they got counselors for these youngsters.”

Like the children Lofton escorted to school, most students would would already have been inside the school for the start of classes at 7:30 a.m. when the accident took place. Lofton said parents have complained about duration of the light at the intersection and the lack of a crossing guard to escort children across the five lanes of Ashland in front of the school.

While police initially said the tractor was leased by the city, a city spokeswoman said that was not the case. A city spokeswoman said the tractor was owned by a contractor working for the Department of Streets and Sanitation and was driven by an employee of the contractor. The tractor resembled ones used to mow grass at vacant lots, several neighborhood residents noted.

Police said the driver was cited for failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident.