Close Close Comment Creative Commons Donate Email Add Email Facebook Instagram Facebook Messenger Mobile Nav Menu Podcast Print RSS Search Secure Twitter WhatsApp YouTube
Stand up for journalism that holds the powerful to account.

A Truck Delivering Amazon Holiday Packages. A Crash. A Family That Will Never Be the Same.

Two weeks shy of her 85th birthday, Telesfora Escamilla was struck and killed by a van delivering Amazon packages. The driver was acquitted. The family is suing Amazon.

Telesfora Escamilla on her wedding day in 1953, left, and within a year of the day she was struck and killed by a truck delivering packages for Amazon, two weeks shy of her 85th birthday. (Taylor Glascock for ProPublica)

On the corner of 28th Street and Drake Avenue in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood, the family of Telesfora Escamilla created a shrine for their mother, decorating a tree with silk flowers, ribbons and Our Lady of Guadalupe candles.

Escamilla was in a crosswalk at that intersection three days before Christmas in 2016 when a driver delivering Amazon packages in a cargo van turned left and hit her. She died that day, two weeks shy of her 85th birthday.

The delivery driver, who was working for an Amazon contractor at the height of the holiday rush, was indicted on a felony charge of reckless homicide but was acquitted in a bench trial this summer. Escamilla’s children are suing Amazon, the contractor and the driver. The driver declined to comment; the contractor did not return calls seeking comment; and Amazon declined to comment.

A proud member of the steelworkers union, Escamilla spent three decades as a machine operator at Crown, Cork & Seal. She and her husband raised their six children in the neighborhood.

Escamilla never drove. She walked everywhere — to feed the birds, to the grocery store, to daily Mass. She had her own pew at St. Agnes of Bohemia Catholic Church.

“She was the neighborhood’s mother,” Joann Escamilla, her daughter-in-law, said. “She even talked to the gangbangers, saying, ‘This is not the life for you.’”

At 84, Escamilla still raked leaves and shoveled snow. And she loved to dance.

“She put the records on all the time, the Spanish records, and whoever’s there, she would dance with that person,” her daughter Irma said. “Whoever’s in the area, she’ll grab them and dance with them.”

When Escamilla’s husband of 57 years died in 2010, her son Bernard said he asked his mother to move in with his family.

The answer was “no,” Bernard Escamilla said. “She wanted to stay there.”

His sister Eleanore chimed in. “We both asked her. No, she was comfortable with the neighborhood … There was not one person she didn’t know in that area.”

Even a witness to the crash cried on the stand as he testified at the delivery driver’s criminal trial. When he was younger, the witness recalled how Escamilla would tell him to go inside and stay out of trouble.

The day of the crash, Escamilla’s daughter Gloria, who lives in Houston, spoke to her on the phone at 7 a.m., as she always did. Her mother was excited about Christmas, talking about serving Chickies’ Italian beef and her favorite tamales.

Escamilla held together four generations of her family. Without her, they feel adrift. Christmas isn’t a festive occasion any more, her children said.

“Now it’s not a holiday,” Gloria Escamilla said. “It will never be the same.”

Protect Independent Journalism

This story you’ve just finished was funded by our readers. We hope it inspires you to make a gift to ProPublica so that we can publish more investigations like this one that hold people in power to account and produce real change.

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that produces nonpartisan, evidence-based journalism to expose injustice, corruption and wrongdoing. We were founded over 10 years ago to fill a growing hole in journalism: Newsrooms were (and still are) shrinking, and legacy funding models are failing. Deep-dive reporting like ours is slow and expensive, and investigative journalism is a luxury in many newsrooms today — but it remains as critical as ever to democracy and our civic life. More than a decade (and six Pulitzer Prizes) later, ProPublica has built one of the largest investigative newsrooms in the country. Our work has spurred reform through legislation, at the voting booth and inside our nation’s most important institutions.

Your donation today will help us ensure that we can continue this critical work. From the climate crisis, to racial justice, to wealth inequality and much more, we are busier than ever covering stories you won’t see anywhere else. Make your gift of any amount today and join the tens of thousands of ProPublicans across the country, standing up for the power of independent journalism to produce real, lasting change. Thank you.

Donate Now

Portrait of Patricia Callahan

Patricia Callahan

Patricia Callahan is a reporter covering business.

Latest Stories from ProPublica

Current site Current page