Teacher killed in choking accident at Wrigley Field - KMSP-TV

Teacher killed in choking accident at Wrigley Field

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Maureen Oleskiewicz. (Photo courtesy of family) Maureen Oleskiewicz. (Photo courtesy of family)
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Palos Heights middle school teacher Maureen Oleskiewicz was such an avid fan of Chicago sports that she instituted spirit days for students to dress up in support of local teams, including her beloved Cubs, Blackhawks and Bears.

On Sunday, the 28-year-old was with her brother at Wrigley Field when she met an untimely end choking on a hotdog, according to her family and authorities.

She didn't get to see the opening pitch.

Oleskiewicz and her brother Martin, were enjoying a pre-game lunch when she caught him off-guard by what at first seemed like an attempt at humor, their mother said.

Quickly, though, Martin Oleskiewicz realized his sister was in grave danger as she fell to the floor choking.

"They're sitting there eating lunch before the game, looking at the field and the next thing she's on the floor," Margaret Oleskiewicz said. "He didn't even know she was in distress and then she's on the floor."

Oleskiewicz went into cardiac arrest and never recovered, despite efforts to revive her, her mother said.

"I think it happened about 1:00, it was just before the game started. Matter of fact, I remembered seeing them give her CPR while the National Anthem was playing," eyewitness Brent Olson said in an email.

"You could see everyone rushing up to the top of the seating with a frantic look on their face. They performed CPR like I've never seen," he said.

Olson, who was standing near the VIP entrance, was so troubled by what he saw that he made a Craigslist post inquiring about Oleskiewicz's fate.

She was taken Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, where she was kept alive until 9:10 a.m. Tuesday—long enough to donate her organs in a final act of kindness, her mother said.

News of Oleskiewicz's death rocked the community at Independence Junior High, where the popular teacher and former student taught 6th and 7th grade language arts.

"There is no magic wand to fix what we cannot comprehend," District 128 Supt. Kathleen Casey wrote in a letter to parents. "Maureen had a positive impact on countless students, parents and … colleagues. Her vibrant, positive outlook on life and her joyful nature will be missed more than words can convey."

A Tuesday night vigil filled the Incarnation Catholic Parish in Palos Heights to capacity. And at an impromptu memorial afterwards, a crush of students lit candles and laid flowers outside her classroom, according to her mother.

Her daughter had a knack for connecting with kids going though the turmoil of early adolescence, Margaret Oleskiewicz said. One unconventional lesson plan even incorporated rap—her students' music of choice.

"The kids got up and were dancing and rapping with her. Every kid got a good grade on that test," she said, choking back tears. "Maureen would make learning fun."

"It's really odd, it's really strange, it's awful what happened," former babysitter and neighbor Rose Knorr said of Oleskiewicz' death.

In a statement, Cubs' spokesman Julian Green said the organization was saddened to learn of Oleskiewicz's death.

"The Chicago Cubs are 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," the statement said.

Hospital officials did not return calls seeking comment, but the elder Oleskiewicz said she was told her daughter's "big, giving heart" will go to a 14-year-old girl in desperate need of one.

"Even in death she was so kind and good," Margaret Oleskiewicz said. "She was more than our daughter, she was our friend and she is just so missed and it's just horrifying that she's not here with us."

"We're only given what we can handle and apparently, God thinks we can handle this," Oleskiewicz continued. "I may disagree but we're doing our best so the Lord wanted her more than we had need for her here apparently."

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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