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Family of Street Performer Who Fell From High-Rise 'in Shock'

By Benjamin Woodard | May 17, 2013 2:02pm | Updated on May 17, 2013 3:57pm
 Hoku Donovan-Smith, 25, fell from the 16th floor of an Edgewater high-rise Tuesday.
Hoku Donovan-Smith
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EDGEWATER — A 25-year-old street performer from New Mexico died earlier this week after falling 16 stories to his death while visiting a friend in Edgewater, family and police said.

The family of Erin "Hoku" Donovan-Smith was told Thursday of his death, following media reports that a man had fallen early Tuesday from a high-rise window in the 6200 block of Kenmore Avenue.

Police said they still are investigating whether the tragedy was an accident or if Donovan-Smith jumped.

Kathleen Statham, Donovan-Smith's aunt and only family member living in the United States, said her nephew had planned to visit her in Austin, Texas, after he visited a friend in Chicago.

Donovan-Smith was touring big cities and planned to move away from his hometown of Santa Fe, where he worked "off and on" as a street performer, his aunt said.

"Hoku was a brilliant mind, a very talented individual," said Statham. "This is truly a tragic, tragic loss."

Statham, 65, said she hardly slept Thursday night as she tried to get in touch with her brother — Donovan-Smith's father — who lives in Italy. She also informed his mother, who lives in England.

"It's tragic because he was leaving Santa Fe," the father, Michael Donovan, said in a phone interview Friday. "He was going to go visit — and travel down to see his aunt, Kathleen."

Donovan said his ex-wife was on her way to Chicago, and he would be flying in Saturday to identify their son's body at the Cook County morgue.

Police said the incident was still under investigation Friday and didn't offer details of how Donovan-Smith fell from the window about 4:30 a.m. Tuesday.

"We’re trying to determine if he fell or jumped," said officer John Mirabelli, a spokesman for the Chicago Police Department. The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office declared Donovan-Smith's death an accident in an autopsy report released this week.

The building manager of Granville Apartments, the 16-story high-rise at 6230 N. Kenmore Ave., confirmed someone had fallen early Tuesday from a window on the north side of the building.

Donovan-Smith's father, who said he was "in shock," was told by police Friday morning that his son was drinking in an apartment with two others when he fell.

He said his son had met a woman while traveling in India last year, was visiting her in Chicago and planned to then go to Austin.

On Monday, the day before he died, Donovan-Smith posted a photo of himself to his Facebook timeline that showed him traveling in an apparent train car, holding a bottled beverage.

Donovan-Smith's active Facebook profile includes several photos of him wearing clown face makeup. He can be seen and heard rapping under the name "Baffle, master of ceremonies" on his Bandcamp profile and on his YouTube profile.

Statham said her nephew had "a lot of friends" in New Mexico.  Although he grew up there, she said, his family often traveled.

"They took him at an early age to travel and to experience the world and to get glimpses of other cultures," she said. "He was very much a person of the world."

"My relationship with Hoku was a slowly growing one," she said, adding that she hadn't seen him in about a year.

"I was looking forward to getting caught up with him — and possibly giving him a little auntie guidance."