Chicago Tribune reporter Peter Nickeas gives details on an overnight hit and run where a man dies after car rammed off road onto I-57. (Posted on: March 9, 2013.)

A 31-year-old man was killed when an SUV pulled alongside the car in which he was riding and rammed it off the road and down an embankment onto Interstate 57 in the Washington Heights neighborhood, authorities said.

The person's body was covered in a sheet on I-57 next to a silver Dodge Stratus, while Chicago police guarded a hole in the chain-link fence atop the embankment on Racine Street, near where the SUV presumed to be involved in the crash was found, still running. The crash happened about 1 a.m., officials said.

The Cook County medical examiner's office identified the man as Corey Owens, of the 5900 block of South Sangamon Street in the Englewood neighborhood.

Police, at this stage in the investigation, have many unanswered questions.

The driver of the SUV fled the scene and it's unclear to police if anyone else was hurt. One of the victim's brothers was being held at the scene by police – at one point he leaned out of the police SUV's back seat to vomit – but it's not clear how he got to the scene, family members said.

Also not known is how family members found out about the crash – police said that they did not notify anyone but about 20 different people showed up throughout the night. One relative arrived there soon enough to pull up next to the scene, family said.

The victim's aunt, Azlina Owens, said a relative received an anonymous phone call from someone who said her nephew was dead. The victim had a wife and two children, Owens said, and found joy in music and spending time with family.

Witnesses on the highway told police the car was airborne before coming to rest.

Police said they aren't sure to whom the SUV and Dodge Stratus belong, and they're not sure if Owens was driving or a passenger in the Stratus.

Both vehicles have damage to their steering columns, indicating they may have been stolen at one time. The SUV has temporary tags but the person to whom the SUV is registered does not live at the address on the registration and the man who died did not own a car.

Complicating matters for police: witnesses on the highway said someone ran down the embankment, looked at the body, and ran back up. Police don't know who that is, either.

At the crime scene above the highway sat a single black SUV. Another two cars, one belonging to the relative who arrived at the scene quickly, were stopped on the shoulder of the highway below.

Police said an SUV, which matched the description of the one inside the crime scene tape, was northbound alongside the Stratus on the one-way northbound street when it rammed the smaller car off the road. Police aren't certain that this SUV is the one that pushed the Stratus off the road.

Family gathered at the scene, a number of them pacing along the crime scene tape and smoking cigarettes while they awaited information from police who had not confirmed to them the man's identity.

The man's brother hopped the fence and tried navigating his way to the pavement below before another relative ran toward him and squeezed him in a tight embrace. He screamed for his brother to get up and hugged the woman for a few minutes before climbing back to the street above.

pnickeas@tribune.com
Twitter: @peternickeas