A fiery high-speed crash in River North claimed the life of 21-year-old DePaul student Alejandra Damian, of Joliet, early Monday morning. The driver of the vehicle, Anthony Milder, 34, fled the scene of the accident and was found dead of an apparent suicide later that day, according to Chicago police.
Milder was driving the high performance Nissan Coupe when it spun out after crashing into a light pole on the 400 block of West Ontario Street at 1:30 a.m., which police said the impact of the high-speed collision caused the vehicle to rip in half and it consequently burst into flames. At 1:40 a.m., emergency responders pulled Damian from the wreck and pronounced her dead at the scene, according to Chicago police. According to eyewitnesses, Milder was coughing up blood as he stumbled away from the burning wreckage with Damian still inside.
Witnesses can be heard on the film asking a rattled Milder several times if there were any passengers in the car, to which he does not respond.
Images from the scene depict the brutality of the incident. Security cameras captured the moment the white blur of the speeding Nissan careened into the utility pole and erupted into flames. Aerial footage shows the two halves of the car engulfed in separate infernos dozens of feet away from one another. As daylight broke, a tow truck pulled the rear half of the charred and unrecognizable vehicle onto the bed to rest next to it’s front.
On Monday evening, the Chicago Fire Department was asked to perform a well-being check on Milder, just as Chicago police were arriving to question him about the incident. Upon entering his Bucktown apartment, police found Milder had hanged himself with a belt. According to police, Milder was pronounced dead at the scene and the Cook County medical examiner ruled it a suicide.
Damian and Milder had been at the recently embattled River North bar The Bottled Blonde, as well as several other area bars prior to the crash, The Chicago Sun-Times reported. Milder was a frequent of area nightlife, and worked at the Underground, another River North bar which the two reportedly stopped at shortly before the crash.
The Bottled Blonde has drawn recently public scorn for it’s newly introduced dress code, which caused a stir on social media after people saw it as specifically targeting people of color. The restaurant and bar has also drawn the attention of the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection for operating against the terms of their liquor license after continued warnings. With a litany of complaints of violence and drunken patrons, the restaurant is a point of contention among River North residents.
As a DePaul student, Damian, who friends called Aly, had just one year left until she got her degree in public relations and advertising. In her spare time, she worked as a waitress at the Cerise Rooftop nightclub in The Loop. On the GoFundMe page started to raise money for funeral costs, Damian’s family described her as “full spirited, ambitious and loving daughter, sister and friend to many.” The original goal of $15,000 in donations for the services was quickly met and has since been upped to $20,000.