COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — The "ghost bike" chained under a Near West Side viaduct and the howl of traffic on a cold winter night marked the spot where Hector Avalos died with chilling clarity.
Avalos, a 28-year-old former Marine, was riding his bike in the 2500 block of West Ogden Avenue on Friday when a Cook County health executive, allegedly drunk behind the wheel of a van, hit him shortly before midnight.
The victim's mother, Ingrid Cossio, said her son was riding home from work. She said he rode his bike everywhere.
Friends of Avalos — who worked as a cook in the River North restaurant El Hefe — erected a ghost bike near the intersection of Ogden and Rockwell Street on Sunday to memorialize Avalos and remind drivers of the perils cyclists face.
Robert Vais, an administrator at Stroger Hospital who lives in west suburban Riverside, was charged with DUI in the fatal crash and ordered held on $400,000 bail Sunday.
Vais, 54, posted the $40,000 needed to get out and then returned to court Monday with his criminal defense attorney.
"He's got money, but money is not an excuse," said Avalos' friend, Anel Olivares. "He is buying time right now, but you can't buy excuses."
Standing at the Cook County courthouse Monday, just a few yards away from Avalos' relatives, Vais openly sobbed.
According to a police report, as Avalos lay in the street Friday night, Vais walked up to officers and said, "I was the driver of that van over there. I hit him. Is he OK?"
Avalos was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 12:38 a.m. Saturday.
Prosecutors said Vais had a blood alcohol content of .118, above the legal limit of .08.
Vais was charged with one count of felony aggravated DUI causing accidental death, one count of misdemeanor DUI and one count of misdemeanor DUI with a blood alcohol content greater than 0.08. He was also cited for failing to reduce his speed.
Friends and family who accompanied Vais to the brief court hearing declined to comment.
A fundraiser to support Avalos' family, which hopes to raise $6,000 to cover funeral expenses, has been set up online. As of Monday night, nearly $2,800 had been donated.