Taft Homes neighbors blame Peoria Housing Authority for woman’s death

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Friday night a woman in her 60s died. Neighbors believe Hazel Turner's life could have been saved if Peoria Housing Authority didn't lock the pedestrian gates.

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Friday night a woman in her 60s died. The Peoria County Coroner said likely of a heart attack.

Neighbors in Peoria’s Taft Homes watched in pain Friday night, as paramedics wheeled out a loved one.

Courtesy: Brenda Coleman

“This woman could have been saved if they could have just accessed her from her front door, “Advocate for Taft Homes Resident Syntia Jackson said.

Neighbors believe 61-one-year old Hazel Turner’s, also known in the community as Miss Hazel, said her life could have been saved if Peoria Housing Authority didn’t lock the pedestrian gates. Turner lived at the intersection of Adams and Green Street inside the gated, public housing complex. Family and friends said she suffered a heart attack.

“She was still here and she still could of been here,” Jackson said.

Family members called 911 just after 9:30 p.m. Friday. Paramedics said they got to Turner eight minutes later. But in a situation where every second matter, Jackson said the pedestrian gates that are locked and welded shut, made it harder for paramedics to get in and out of the complex to save Turner’s life.

“That’s a long way to have to wheel someone around the building just to get them back to the ambulance,” Jackson said.

Security footage shows paramedics with Advanced Medical Transport rolling a stretcher around the fence.

Another video, circulating on social media posted by neighbors in the area shows AMT throwing equipment over the gates as they were leaving.

An AMT Spokesperson said after they responded to Turner and placed her in the AMT vehicle, they realized some equipment was left in the apartment. Thomas Geraci, AMT Vice President of Operations said tossing the equipment was the quickest way to transport the Turner to a local hospital.

Peoria Housing Authority Chairman, Carl Cannon said the gates are locked to keep violence and drug traffic down.

“The difference between a year ago pre-gate is night and day, it’s a little inconvenient, but I’m going to get the data. It’s a lot safer,” Cannon said.

Cannon said the data showing the crime rate in Taft Homes since restricting pedestrian access is unavailable right now but will release them as soon as possible.

But both Cannon and Geraci claim the gates are not a hazard and are not the reason first responders decided to park on Adams Street and walk around, saying they would have chosen that route anyway.

“They (the driver) were kinda worried about a number of people that were out and about. It’s not so different than pulling in a residential area and you are out in the street and you gotta go down a little bit and have to go up the driveway,” Geraci said.

Paramedics said they used aggressive measures to save Turner’s life, but she was pronounced dead nearly an hour later at a local hospital.

The gate was found unlocked Tuesday afternoon, but just Monday the gates were locked and welded. The paramedics claim that the locked gates did not play a role in Turner’s death.

Geraci said it is unlikely for people to survive cardiac arrest, but Cannon said he’s listening to the community and will work on a solution to accommodate neighbors. While also keeping the community safe.

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