UPDATED 02/22/12 – 4:30 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Two people were seriously injured on the Kennedy Expressway early Wednesday, in yet another crash involving a wrong-way driver.
The offending motorist has now been charged with driving drunk.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports
The crash happened around 4:20 a.m. Wednesday on the outbound Kennedy near Division Street.
Vanessa Castillo, 25, of the 3100 block of West 41st Place, traveled several miles the wrong way in outbound lanes, Illinois State Police said. In the process, she clipped a tanker truck and a black Mazda, knocking the mirror off one of the cars, state police said. The tanker truck was also severely damaged.
Finally, Castillo then slammed head-on into a black Nissan Maxima heading the right way on the Kennedy at Division Street, state police said.
Castillo was taken to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, while the driver into whose car she plowed, also a woman, was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, state police said.
The driver of the car Castillo allegedly hit head-on was in serious condition with broken bones. Castillo herself was unconscious at the scene and smelled of alcohol, state police said.
Both were pinned into their cars and had to be removed.
CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli caught up with one of the driver of the Mazda that Castillo clipped as he arrived at the Chicago Police Major Accident Investigation Unit after the crash.
Peter Walus said he believes he would have been killed if he had not swerved out of the path of the wrong-way driver.
“I wouldn’t be here right now, talking to you. That’s for sure,” he said. “All I could do was react. There was no time to think about anything else.”
He said the whole thing was over in a matter of a few seconds, but in that short time, he steered his Mazda 3 to the right, broadsiding the car next to him.
Castillo’s car actually clipped Walus’ Mazda. The damaged rear view mirror tells the story.
“You can see it’s all cracked and the whole mirror was all smashed,” Walus said. “That’s how close it was. I’m sure she was doing 75, 80. I was lucky enough to get out of the way just in time.”
The driver behind him wasn’t so fortunate. Walus watched in horror as the cars collided head on.
“In my rearview, I seen a couple of cars in the air for a second,” Walus said.
Then he saw the terrible impact when Castillo’s Sebring smashed right into a Nissan Maxima.
When Walus saw the damage to the Maxima, he realized the 6 to 6-inch width of his mirror likely saved his life.
“I mean, it was demolished. Like, there was no front end,” Walus said. “I was shaken for a little while.”
Castillo has received citations for driving under the influence, driving with no license, and driving the wrong way, state police said. She remained hospitalized as of late Wednesday morning, and will be held in custody until she posts bond, state police said.
Wrong-way drivers have made headlines multiple times over the past few months – sometimes with deadly consequences.
Most recently, on Feb. 9, three people were hurt when a wrong-way driver slammed into multiple vehicles on Lake Shore Drive near Roosevelt Road. A woman driving a Nissan sportscar north in the southbound lanes of the Drive slammed into a Toyota Corolla and a van.
The woman, Carneris Wiggins, 29, of the 2000 block of West 111th Street, was later charged with aggravated driving under the influence resulting in an accident causing bodily harm.
Early on Feb. 6, Gustavo Vargas, 29, and his three passengers had just left the Skybox gentlemen’s club in Harvey when he made a U-turn and started heading east in the westbound lanes of Interstate 80 near Kedzie Avenue. Vargas slammed his Infiniti into a Ford Explorer, killing two of his passengers – Jorge Pina, 28, and Armando Ruiz, 29, and the driver of the Explorer, Jason Wepsiec, 35.
On Feb. 3, , a suspected drunken driver headed the wrong way for 6 miles on the Stevenson Expressway. Rakesh J. Baker, 23, was first spotted driving the wrong way in a Jeep sport-utility-vehicle on the Stevenson near Kedzie Avenue, and finally slammed head-on into another vehicle on the ramp from southbound Lake Shore Drive to the inbound Stevenson around 3 a.m.
Four people were left in critical condition in that incident.
And back in December, Sergio Galez-Delira, 24, of Glenview, barreled into incoming traffic on the Edens Expressway and headed north in the southbound lanes from Elston Avenue all the way north to Glencoe. He did not hit any cars, but spurred many drivers to place terrified calls to 911.
Galez-Delira told CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez that he was drunk, and was also on anti-depressants at the time. He called the wrong-way misadventure “one of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever done.”
Motorists are advised to get on the outbound Kennedy at North Avenue to get to O’Hare International Airport.