Hinsdale family wants sidewalk safety

Village said it’s taken action, but Richards say hazard remains after son was killed

Hinsdale officials have not done enough to improve safety outside Fuller’s Car Wash following the tragic death of 14-year-old village resident Sean Richards last summer, according to his parents, Kristi and Brian Richards.

During public comment at Tuesday night’s village board meeting, an emotional Kristi Richards criticized trustees’ approval of protective bollards at the site following the accident as an inadequate measure that gives pedestrians “the false sense that they are protected” when walking past the car wash exit area.

“Safety on a sidewalk should be this board’s No. 1 priority,” she said. “There’s a complete lack of understanding by this board of the severity and gravity of this tragedy and the trauma that this community has suffered.”

The original bollards were installed by Fuller’s in August, shortly after Sean was struck and killed July 17 when a vehicle exiting the car wash accelerated onto the sidewalk where he was walking. The vehicle proceeded into Fontano’s Subs across Lincoln Street, injuring three patrons.

Village President Tom Cauley, on behalf of the trustees, expressed his sympathies to the Richards, and assured them public safety is a top priority.

“We’re not enemies here. We’re on the same side,” Cauley told the couple.

He said after the village signed off on the rebar-reinforced concrete bollards that had been placed four feet apart, enclosed in a decorative brick wall, the Richards presented engineering information on stopping a car going 35 miles per hour that led officials to require more posts be added to leave only a two-foot gap.

“At this point, what we’ve approved is something that’s been approved by our engineers,” Cauley explained.

He acknowledged that work to install the additional bollards has not been completed, which Kristi Richards argued leaves people at risk.

“You’re allowing that car wash to operate with something that doesn’t work?” she posed, questioning why a warning sign hasn’t at least been erected.

Cauley said the village will make sure the bollards are put in this spring.

Several of the Richards’ friends and neighbors also urged the village to take more steps to ensure such a tragedy isn’t repeated. Brian Richards said car wash workers still drive around the bollards and onto the sidewalk adjacent to the business.

“We don’t want to be adversarial,” he told trustees, expressing the family’s fondness for Hinsdale. “We’re not going to let this go. It’s our new mission.”

On advice of their counsel, Kristi said, the family submitted a letter to the village demanding the permanent revocation of the special-use permit that has allowed Fuller’s Car Wash to operate at the site since 1995. She cited four other instances since 2007 where cars being driven out of the car wash crossed over Lincoln and injured people or damaged vehicles.

“The corner at Lincoln and Chicago Avenue where Fuller’s Car wash is located is not safe. This has been known by Fuller’s and the village for many years,” Kristi said. “We’re not interested in things that look safe. We want to know with confidence that our friends and neighbors and their children will be safe walking on a sidewalk on Lincoln Street.”

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean