Boss of woman killed by Merchandise Mart fall: NeoCon should have had medical staff on-hand

For interior designers and dealers in posh furniture— including veteran saleswoman Jacqueline Albertine— the Merchandise Mart's annual NeoCon convention is a must-attend industry event that allows them to see the best in new design concepts while enjoying a trip to Chicago.

And during her time in Chicago, Albertine enjoyed the sites downtown, including Willis Tower’s transparent Skydeck ledge, posting photos to social media. But on Monday, while riding a hanging swing installation made by a luxury design firm, she fell and injured her head.

Albertine, 57, of Miami Beachsuffered fatal head injuries in the fall at an 11th floor showroom in the sprawling building, 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza about 12:30 p.m. Monday, authorities said. Authorities originally indicated that the accident occurred on Tuesday.

On Thursday, days after the accident, Albertine’s longtime boss said he and other colleagues were struggling to make sense of their loss, adding that NeoCon was usually a time for fun for designers like her.

"It's a reward trip," said Shawn MacMullin, president of Corporate Design Choice in Miami, the firm where Albertine worked. "The designers want to go to Chicago to see the new introductions and socialize with business people. It's not a requirement, they really want to go.

"It's almost like, if you're in the car industry, you go to the national car show. It's really supposed to be a fun event and that makes this tragedy even worse.”

According to MacMullin—who didn’t attend NeoCon, but was briefed by two employees who attended with Albertine—she was riding a swing display at manufacturer David Edwards’ booth when she fell backwards and hit her head. MacMullin said Albertine was injured around noon, but the Chicago Fire Department said it responded to the scene at 12:30 p.m.

MacMullin said he has concerns that there was no medical staff at the packed convention who could have aided the vivacious Florida woman sooner.

"Part of our frustration is the fact that it didn't seem like there was medical attention readily available for this event. She hit her head and it took a long time for any type of response,” he said.