CHICAGO — Martin Oleskiewicz and his sister Maureen were munching on hot dogs and watching the Chicago Cubs warm up before the start of Sunday’s game at Wrigley Field when Maureen suddenly slumped and fell between the rows of the right field bleachers.
“There were no signs she was in distress. She just went down,” said Martin, 23, shaking his head at the memory of standing by, helplessly, as a nurse in the crowd and EMTs performed chest compressions on his sister. “They were saying she didn’t have a pulse. It felt hopeless.”
He and the others providing aid didn’t know she had choked on a hot dog and was unable to breathe. She was rushed to Illinois Masonic Hospital not far from the ballpark and pronounced dead Tuesday morning, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. Oleskiewicz was 28.
“It’s horrifying,” said her mother, Margaret Oleskiewicz, weeping in her Palos Heights home where Maureen grew up. “We’re beyond devastated. A new word has to be invented to describe the pain we’re feeling.”
Maureen was a language arts teacher at Independence Junior High School in Palos Heights, where many of her current and former students left flowers on the ledge of her classroom window Tuesday. She graduated from Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., and taught religious education at Incarnation Catholic Church in Palos Heights, where some 400 friends and relatives held a vigil in her memory Tuesday evening.
Margaret said the most terrifying part was that her young daughter was otherwise healthy. Martin said she never made any noise or grabbed her throat before she fell over.
“It’s just unbelievable that she is not with us,” Margaret Oleskiewicz said.
A spokesman for the Cubs said ballpark staff and emergency personnel responded around 12:55 p.m. CDT Sunday. She was taken to the hospital by a private ambulance on standby at Wrigley, said spokesman Julian Green.
The Cubs released a statement saying the organization was “saddened to hear news of the untimely death of Maureen Oleskiewicz. We express our deepest sympathy to her family and friends. We will continue to keep her family in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”