Naperville Man Who Spoke out after Porch Tragedy Sues Chicago
Gutowski, Christy, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Christy Gutowski Daily Herald Legal Affairs Writer
The sights, sounds and even the scent of the Chicago porch collapse that killed 13 people, including his brother, are with John Koranda when he wakes and in the final moments before the escape of sleep.
In a flash, he is suddenly engulfed in blackness again. His shoulder is pinned against the floor. He can't move.
The 24-year-old man said he has learned to live with the constant memory of that helpless feeling and the heartache of losing his only brother, Robert, nearly two years ago.
The razor-sharp edge of the Naperville family's pain had dulled since it first cut, but members said it returned with the same fervor after Chicago officials alleged John Koranda contributed to the Lincoln Park porch collapse by jumping up and down during a party.
But, instead of feeling helpless, the Naperville family this time is fighting back. In a federal lawsuit filed Thursday against Chicago, Koranda is alleging officials are retaliating against him for speaking out about their inspection process.
He denies jumping on the porch and said city officials fabricated the story after his family publicized its belief that a corrupt Chicago building department is to blame.
"They've had two years to make changes and, instead, they blame me," he said during a news conference in the federal courthouse. "It's sickening to have to experience firsthand the city's arrogance and also the disregard for any sort of compassion."
Thirteen people attending a party at 713 W. Wrightwood Ave. on June 29, 2003, were killed in the porch collapse.
Many of them were young professionals, including Robert Koranda. He and his roommates hosted the party.
At 23, the Princeton University graduate worked as a credit analyst at LaSalle Bank in Chicago and planned to enroll in law school as a stepping stone to a career in politics. Robert Koranda grew up in Naperville, where he was a Huskies football standout, but he was drawn to downtown Chicago and all it offered.
He'd tease his mother, Sue, that her native southern California had nothing on "his city." His family also includes Katie, his sister, and Kenneth, his father.
"I think he'd be surprised and saddened his city let him down," Sue Koranda said as her eyes welled with tears. "He always loved Chicago. He was the kind of person who always wanted to make a difference."
She called city officials "bullies."
Many of the victims' families, including the Korandas, filed lawsuits against Chicago or building owner Phillip Pappas.
The city also sued Pappas and his contractor, accusing them of failing to get building permits for the work and of improperly building a deck larger than city code permits. …