When you think of car crime, your mind might meander along boulevards of car theft, intoxicated driving, and vehicular manslaughter. While this story is less direct than a simple hit-and-run, it’s certainly no less heinous. Today marks the 18th anniversary of a Dave Matthews Band tour bus literally shitting on Chicago tourists. Pack a barf bag, this story’s about to get disgusting.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard a Dave Matthews Band song. Call it a generational gap or Canadian radio stations’ strict adherence to CanCon rules, but I must’ve missed this band in its entirety. Nevertheless, we’re talking about a very successful Grammy-winning musical act here. All but two Dave Matthews Band albums have gone platinum, which explains why the band had full-fledged tour buses, cars you can poop in, for its 2004 touring season.
The tour bus assigned to violinist Boyd Tinsley was driven by Stefan Wohl of Selma, Texas. According to the Associated Press via CBS News, Wohl was alone in the bus and needed to empty his waste tank. With a hectic touring schedule of back-to-back dates, how would Wohl find time to dump the load? Well, an answer came in the form of Chicago’s Kinzie Street Bridge.
See, the Kinzie Street Bridge crosses the Chicago River and doesn’t feature a traditional deck. Instead of concrete or asphalt, the bridge has more than 150 feet of riveted metal grating, a relatively cheap solution that offers decent grip and lets rainfall pass straight through the deck of the bridge. Hey, if rain can pass through then why not human waste? This is a city that dyes the river green for St. Patrick’s Day; there’s a good chance they’ll never notice if things get a bit crappy.
Unfortunately, the waste dump didn’t go as planned because right as Wohl drained the tank, a sightseeing boat passed underneath the Kinzie Street Bridge. How does a tourism boat operate profitably while giving passengers the best view of the city? By stuffing more than 100 people onto an open deck, of course. Suddenly, everyone on that boat had an emergency defecation situation on their hands. And faces. And chests.
A coach bus can have a black tank with a capacity of 100 gallons or more. Let’s say that each gallon weighed the same eight pounds that a gallon of water does, which seems like a fairly reasonable assumption. That’s a ballpark 800 pounds of human waste that came raining down on tourists. That’s only slightly less than the weight of a 2021 Honda Gold Wing. According to the Chicago Tribune, passengers reacted exactly how you’d expect them to react.
There was this “stunned silence initially. Then sort of this horrible realization as they began to smell themselves as to what happened,” said Steedman Bass, 35, of Boston, who was a passenger on the boat but not sprayed. “It was horrific.”
According to a filing with the Illinois Attorney General, “Dozens of passengers on the sightseeing boat tour were doused with the liquid human waste.” Five people went to hospital for testing, which presumably means that dozens of people were okay to just go home and wash off the human filth.
To make matters worse, boat passengers weren’t the only people in the splash zone. Lynn LaPlante Allaway was driving behind the tour bus when she realized that while the bridge’s grated deck allows for excellent drainage, some shit just ended up sticking around. In an addition to an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Allaway detailed the experience on her blog.
The horrifying smell hit us like a tsunami and I barfed, leaning my head out of the window while I drove, my husband now screaming from the passenger seat. My son was quietly oblivious in the backseat.
And the full-on smiting began: my outgoing barf got blown back by the wind and right into my hair. My beautiful, clean, fresh, prenatal vitamin hair! This new, combined smell of barf plus poop made me throw up again. And again. By this point, I was also crying, with my husband screaming at me to “pull over, for God’s sake, pull over!”
After the dirty deed was done, investigators were fairly quick to find the perpetrator. The Chicago Tribune reports that a combination of security footage and running plates was good enough to pin down the offending bus.
Videotape evidence from the nearby East Bank Club, a swanky gym, showed only one big bus crossing the Kinzie Street Bridge during the time when the dumping happened. And that fact and a license-plate check were enough for investigators to pin the crime on the Tinsley bus.
The Associated Press reports that Wohl, the bus driver, ended up getting 18 months probation, 150 hours of community service, and a $10,000 fine. Needless to say, his days of driving the Dave Matthews Band around were over. In addition, the Dave Matthews Band had to settle a civil suit with the State of Illinois for $200,000. Still, the band found supporters in high places throughout the shitshow. According to the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley said that the dumping was “absolutely unacceptable,” but believed that the Dave Matthews Band was “a very good band.”
That should be the end of the story, right? Well, not quite. Right as the Dave Matthews Band reached a settlement with the State of Illinois, it dropped a new Ben & Jerry’s collaboration flavor called – and I’m not making this up – Magic Brownies.
So what have we learned here? Well, don’t dump your waste tank in the Chicago River is a start, but I feel like the real message is that one really shitty decision can dramatically affect a band’s image. The stench of this incident really hung in the air around the Dave Matthews Band, and I’m sure that Chicagoans will never forget about the day DMB dropped a deuce in the river.
Lead photo credit: Prevost, thms.nl, diliff, Twemoji