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City Driver Dies Moving Snow

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A city worker died Saturday trying to move snow in this North Side alley. (CBS)

A city worker died Saturday trying to move snow in this North Side alley. (CBS)

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UPDATED 2/6/11 5:10 P.M.

CHICAGO (CBS/WBBM) — An on-duty Department of Streets and Sanitation worker suffered a fatal heart attack Saturday morning while removing snow surrounding garbage bins in the West Ridge neighborhood.

William “Billy” King, 60, suffered a fatal heart attack about 9 a.m. while working in an alley in the 3600 block of West Devon Avenue, according to a statement from Streets & Sanitation Commissioner Thomas G. Byrne.

He exited the garbage truck he was driving to help shovel snow from around the garbage carts so it could be collected when he suffered the heart attack, Byrne said.

King was pronounced dead at 9:12 a.m. at Swedish Covenant Hospital, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office. A Sunday autopsy confirmed King died of coronary atherosclerosis and the death was natural.

King worked for the City of Chicago for more than 10 years.

“Those who knew Billy said he was a conscientious worker, helpful to his fellow employees, always willing to help a friend, and a caring brother,” Byrne said in the statement.

Belmont Area detectives are investigating.

A witnesses had a different take on the tragic event. He told CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot that King and his crew were trying to extricate the garbage truck when its rear tires got stuck in the snow.

“It’s pretty traumatic, it really was, to see somebody who’s out here  just simply trying to earn a wage and get a truck through an alley to pick up garbage or clear snow, whatever their job was that day, to see somebody lose their life because of something that simple,” said the witness, who asked not  to be identified.

Streets and Sanitation spokesman Matt Smith stood by the commissioner’s statement, saying it was based on information his department received from multiple city sources. He said the garbage truck was picking up trash.

“There was never a mention of the truck being stuck,” Smith told CBS 2.

The city is using garbage trucks, rather than plows, to help clear paths through alleyways. Byrne said that garbage trucks cut paths through 1,500 of the city’s 19,000 alleys in the past day and that trash collection should be able to resume next week.

Byrne has said repeatedly that the city will not plow alleys because of the potential for damage to garage doors and vehicles.

Saturday, Rabbi Simcha Adelman ran to the scene and began performing CPR on King, but to no avail. King had worked for the City of Chicago for more than 10 years.

“Those who knew Billy said he was a conscientious worker, helpful to his fellow employees, always willing to help a friend, and a caring brother,” Byrne said in the statement.

Meanwhile, efforts continued to clear the city’s 3,300 miles of side streets of snow from the past week’s blizzard.

Byrne said that more than 525 dump trucks, front-end loaders, Bobcats and other snow-removal equipment remained hard at work, and said that virtually all streets have had “at least one pass” by plows. But he conceded that the snow removal effort is far from finished.

“The conditions of the city’s side streets vary from nearly clear, to passable, to some that are still covered with a good deal of snow,” he said. “They can vary from block-to-block because of the high volume of snow and winds that occurred with this blizzard.”

Byrne said cul-de-sacs and some streets that have a particularly narrow traffic lane can be the toughest to clear, but said the city is making special efforts to assure that all are passable.

“We know that there are some areas throughout the city that require additional resources, and we are working to address those issues as soon as possible,” he said.

City plows also continue to work on Lake Shore Drive, which is reopened but was cleared in an uneven manner in many areas, leaving some passageways as narrow as 1-1/2 lanes.

As of 12:30 p.m. Saturday, 26 of the cars abandoned on Lake Shore Drive at the height of the blizzard remain unclaimed at the parking sites to which they were towed. No tickets were issued and no fees are being imposed in order to claim the cars.

Contributing: Sun-Times Media Wire

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