Police: Drag Racing Led To Deadly Crash Into Oil Pipeline

UPDATED 03/05/12 4:04 p.m.

NEW LENOX TOWNSHIP, Ill. (CBS) — Police said Monday that the drivers of two vehicles were drag racing when they crashed through a fence and slammed into an oil pipeline over the weekend, sparking a fire that killed two people.

A Ford Mustang and a sport-utility vehicle were speeding side-by-side down a desolate street early Saturday when they went through a chain-link fence at a dead end and crashed into an oil pipeline, causing a fire, officials said.

The two men in the Mustang, who have been identified as Zachary Orel and Bart Lenz, perished in the blaze.

At 2:05 a.m. Saturday, Will County Sheriff’s police and New Lenox firefighters responded to the explosion of an Enbridge Energy pipeline in an industrial park east of Schoolhouse Road and south of Old Plank Road Trail, reports said.

The Ford Mustang, which had two people inside, and the SUV, which had three occupants, were apparently side by side when they went through the fence and traveled approximately 125 feet onto the property before striking the pipeline, igniting the crude oil inside.

A worker said the impact with the pipe appeared to have “sheared off” the top of the Mustang.

The two people in the Mustang died in the crash. One of the fatalities has been identified as Zachary Orel, 25, a rookie Posen firefighter. The other was identified as New Lenox resident Bart Lenz.

zach orel 0304 Police: Drag Racing Led To Deadly Crash Into Oil Pipeline

Posen firefighter Zachary Orel was killed when a vehicle struck an oil pipeline in New Lenox early on March 3, 2012. (Family Photo)

The pipeline was reportedly burning until 5 a.m. Saturday The crude oil leak was capped at 8 a.m., said Rich Adams, vice president of U.S. operations for Enbridge Energy Company.

“When you hit a liquid fuel line, usually it’s not very good. They can ignite and there was ignition,” New Lenox Fire Protection District Chief Jon Mead said.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports, Larry Springer of Enbridge Energy says crews are working on the around the clock to fix the pipeline.

“Removing any contaminated soil that is around and that has to be properly disposed of,” Springer said, “and once we have the pipeline exposed where we can work on it, then we have to see what the damage was and apply the proper repair techniques.”

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports

A leak at Enbridge’s Romeoville pipeline in 2010 led to a spike in Chicago area gas prices. It is unclear whether that will happen again this time. The company hopes one of the damaged pipelines will be fixed by Wednesday and the other, by Thursday.

Following the accident, firefighters rushed three men to Silver Cross Hospital in Joliet for treatment, Mead said.

Two men were soon transferred to the burn unit at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, New Lenox police Chief Bob Sterba said. One man was so badly injured, he was airlifted via helicopter, he said.

The five men are all were their 20s and reside in New Lenox, Sterba said.

“This is horrible, horrible, horrible,” Sterba said. Added Posen Mayor Donald Schupek: “I’m sorry that it’s such a waste of young life.”

The two passengers of the Trailblazer, Patrick T. Hall, 22, and William R. Monreal, 20, reportedly told Will County Sheriff’s police the driver, Michael G. Piersman, 21, was knocked unconscious, but they were able to get him from the SUV and pull him to safety, sheriff’s spokeswoman Kathy Hoffmeyer said.

“As the fire spread, the three ran to the corners of the fenced-in area. Two were able to climb out at one corner and the third man climbed the fence at another corner as a New Lenox officer and a deputy arrived on the scene,” Hoffmeyer said.

Reports said Piersman and Monreal suffered “severe burns from the waist down.”

All three were taken to Silver Cross Hospital.

At the hospital, the surviving victims told police the group of five men had been out drinking at a nearby bar, before deciding to race their vehicles, reports said.

New Lenox police officer Eric Etchison was at Schoolhouse and Laraway roads, about a half-mile from the accident, when he saw the flames and rushed to the scene, Sterba said.

Etchison was the first emergency responder on the scene and “did a great job” helping three men get out of the fenced-in area, Sterba said.

However, he was unable to reach the two men in the other car due to “significant flames,” Sterba said.

“He certainly was quite frustrated because the other car, the flames and heat were so intense, he couldn’t get near it,” Sterba said.

New Lenox Mayor Tim Baldermann said he knew two of the victims through his son, and played basketball with the men last summer. He declined to name the victims because he was not sure if their families had been notified.

“What a terrible accident. We feel badly for the families and the victims,” Baldermann said.

Orel’s brother-in-law, Brandon Vainowski, called him “an amazing man who lived life for everything that it was worth.”

The SouthtownStar and the Chicago Sun-Times contributed to this report, via the Sun-Times Media Wire.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2012. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

  • http://iyfr.com/two-dead-in-oil-pipeline-crash-in-new-lenox-township-cbs-local/ Two Dead In Oil Pipeline Crash In New Lenox Township – CBS Local | iyfr.com - fast news hub for all

    […] CBS Local […]

  • Roberta Waker

    They must have been booking to travel 125 feet onto the property through a chain link fence. Were they racing? Was alcohol involved at 2 a.m.? Our sympathy goes out to the families of the victims in this tragedy. Hope more details become available so this might be avoided in the future.

  • http://iyfr.com/enbridge-says-no-timeline-for-pipeline-restart-reuters/ Enbridge says no timeline for pipeline restart – Reuters | iyfr.com - fast news hub for all

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  • http://nwcoastenergynews.com/2012/03/04/1949/enbridge-closes-illinois-pipeline-fiery-crash/ Enbridge closes Illinois pipeline after fiery crash

    […] The CBS News bureau in Chicago reported; The crude oil leak was capped at 8 a.m., said Rich Adams, vice president of U.S. operations for Enbridge Energy Company. […]

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  • Army Vet,VN

    WOW.was he a responcible firefighter,

    • Taylor

      Excuse me? Your sarcasm isn’t appreciated. 2 people are dead and youre making unesicary comments. I personally know the parents of one of the boys who died and this is a serious tragedy. So next time you want to make unesicary comments, take it somewhere else. Oh and learn how to spell

      • Grammar Police

        Um…it’s unnecessary…you are the one who needs to learn how to spell. durrr

  • Linda

    They must have known where they were going and to be going so fast as to go through a chain link fence, continue on 125 feet and crash into a pipeline, makes no sense.

  • http://iyfr.com/enbridge-us-oil-line-to-be-shut-for-four-more-days-reuters/ Enbridge US oil line to be shut for four more days – Reuters | iyfr.com - fast news hub for all

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  • http://iyfr.com/enbridge-us-oil-line-to-be-shut-for-four-more-days-reuters-uk/ Enbridge US oil line to be shut for four more days – Reuters UK | iyfr.com - fast news hub for all

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  • Gee, I wonder if...

    … ALCOHOL was involved. Hmm… 20-somethings, 2 a.m., Friday night, high speed… HMM… I’m just too stupid to figure this out. Maybe somebody could explain it to me.

    • Roberta Waker

      @Gee. You might want to wait for an update to find out if alcohol was or wasn’t involved in this accident. Believe it or not, everyone out at 2 a.m. on a Friday night isn’t drunk. Right now it looks as if they were drag racing and according to people living in the area this section of road is known for drag racing. If that’s true, they need to install speed bumps or something to keep this from happening again.

      • Kathy

        Or maybe after people see the senselessness of this episode they will make a better choice next time and be a responsible ADULT and know right from wrong. Too bad an innocent Firefighter had to lose his life for these little boys to be able to play such a worthless game. I hope the survivors suffer like the Mother of the firefighter will for the rest of her life. So sad.

      • E.V.

        KATHY….u might want to think before u say things…obviously people make mistakes in their lives and unfortunately one of the two men that died i knew him well soo to all u people saying horribl things imagine if it was someone u knew…u wouldnt be saying these sorts of things…yes they were young and when ur young u tend to do things before u think fully about it….soo understand that everyone is hurting over this terrible tragedy….

  • http://iyfr.com/enbridge-pipeline-oil-leak-and-fire-follow-deadly-vehicle-accident-huffington-post/ Enbridge Pipeline: Oil Leak And Fire Follow Deadly Vehicle Accident – Huffington Post | iyfr.com - fast news hub for all

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  • Kyle

    The street where this occurred is commonly used as a drag strip for racing. Seems to me that this played a large role in why they traveled so far after hitting the fence.

  • Johnny

    Rest in peace Zachary Orel.Rest in Peace.

    • jim

      i heard these two cars racing at high rate of speed southbound on schoolhouse road 2-3 minutes before the explosion.AND YOU CAN NOT MAKE THE TURN INTO THE INDUSTRIAL PARK OFF OF SCHOOLHOUSE RD AT A HIGH RATE OF SPEED, so they had to have slowed down to less than 20 mph to do so, THEN it was time to race again.the longest street in this industrial park is 3 blocks long, and the street they were racing on before going through the fence is 2 blocks long. IT IS SAD, to see young lives lost. BUT one of them should of been designated driver, so all young drinkers need to learn and practice that important life lesson,BEFORE it’s too late!!!!!

  • Heath L

    They were drinking in a local bar. The survivors have already testified to this. I agree this was a tragedy but it could have been easily prevented by two individuals not getting into a car after drinking in a bar. We all know better to not get drunk and then jump behind the wheel. They had no business in that area and made a poor decision to drink and drive, let alone drag racing. Everyone wants to say what great kids they were. Really? They put peoples lives at risk and unfortunately that risk has cost lives and ruined many more. Would you be saying they were so great if they killed some innocent family driving home that night? We should not be looking up to a firefighter who drinks, drives, then drag races and kills someone. Lesson to all who hear this story… Don’t let your kids repeat this mistake!

  • John Q

    They were drinking at a bar in New Lenox called Prime Time. I know people who were hanging out and drinking with them. They left the bar and started racing not long after leaving the bar. Schoolhouse is right next to Prime Time and it closes at 2 a.m. so they were obviously impared to drive. I agree that all people who hear this story need to think about it every time they go out drinking. If you think ahead of the consequences of drinking and driving, you won’t make that decision to drive. You have the potential to kill yourself and others like these idiots!

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