Longtime “Chicago Tonight” reporter Elizabeth Brackett was critically injured in a bicycle accident Wednesday afternoon, WTTW reported.
Brackett, 76, was admitted to Stroger Hospital with two fractured vertebrae in her neck and is currently in a coma, according to the TV station.
Passersby first noticed Brackett sitting upright in a grassy area about 25 or 30 feet off the bike path near 3900 South, fire department spokesman Larry Langford said Thursday.
A short time later, a passerby called 911 after noticing that Brackett was laying down in the grass and the color of her skin had begun to turn blue, Langford said.
A 911 dispatcher began to walk a good Samaritan through the CPR process until police arrived a short time later and took over. Moments later an ambulance arrived and paramedics began trying to revive her, Langford said.
There was no outward indication that she’d been in an accident — no scratches, dirt, bumps or bruises that were visible, Langford said.
“CPR was given and all advanced life support protocols were followed as she was transported to Mercy Hospital in critical condition,” Langford said. She later was transferred to Stroger, he said.
It’s unclear if she fell off the bike or came to a controlled stop, Langford said.
The incident took place on a portion of the lakefront path where construction to create separate paths for cyclists and pedestrians was completed last year.
Carol Marin, a veteran political reporter and friend of Brackett’s, said Brackett was training for a triathlon along the Lakefront.
Brackett retired from the public broadcast station in 2014 after two decades as a full-time correspondent for “Chicago Tonight,” covering business and sports, local environmental and genetic research. During that time she also provided local stories for the national series “PBS NewsHour.” She remains an occasional contributor to the Chicago program — one of her reports, on the reduced number of boats in Monroe Harbor, aired last week.
Marin called her colleague “the real deal, the whole package.” The two have known each other since 1979 when they covered Mayor Jane Byrne.
“She’s a warrior, she’s dogged, competitive, ferocious, smart and politically savvy. That applies to news and to her athleticism,” Marin said.
Brackett’s work has garnered two Midwest Emmy Awards, two Peter Lisagor Awards for Business Journalism and a National Peabody Award, among others.
She is also a decorated athlete — Brackett is a world champion triathlete who first competed at age 50. She won five international titles in her age group – including one just last year. Recent Facebook posts on May 31 and June 9, show her preparing for another competition.
Just last week, she wrote on Facebook of a ride in Wisconsin.
“What a difference the weather makes!” she wrote. “20 degrees cooler than last year-15 minutes faster than last year! The hills were still brutal on the beautiful Elkhart Lake, Wi course- but no walking up them this year! Took all places in my age group – will have to wait until the Nationals and the Worlds for real competition.”
And late last month, she celebrated the season’s first swim.
“Sun’s up for my 1st Lake swim of the season! My swimming buddies, seen below, have been in the lake for a month and are now swimming a mile to the pier I made it to the 2nd buoy — twice — in 62 degree water. It’s summer!!”
WTTW management said it would monitor her condition and provide updates when available.