Truck Driver Killed When Semi Smashes Car, Slams Into House
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UPDATED 05/24/12 – 4:49 p.m.
CALUMET CITY, Ill. (CBS) — A semi-trailer truck driver was killed overnight when his truck rolled over another vehicle and crashed into the side of a house in Calumet City.
As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, the crash happened shortly before 1 a.m. Thursday near the intersection of Michigan City Road and Torrence Avenue.
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The semi crashed into a home on Michigan City Road, and the trailer of the truck slammed into and demolished a car. It ended up lodged about 12 feet inside the house where Don Hartkoorn and his family live. Everyone in the house escaped without injury.
The truck driver, Joseph Foster, 37, of Talmo, Ga., was dead on the scene, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office. But his young daughter survived with only minor injuries, as did a young woman and her brother who were in the car that was smashed by the truck trailer.
“I heard them screeching the brakes – it was continuous. It didn’t stop. And I heard an impact – a crash – and then the whole house exploded,” Hartkoorn said. “And I was in the back of the house at the time, and my wife was asleep downstairs, and my daughter was asleep upstairs. So I couldn’t get to the front of the house, because the truck was obviously in the house.”
What Don and Valerie Hartkoorn didn’t know right away was, when the semi plowed into their house, it trapped their daughter upstairs.
“She couldn’t come down the stairs, because that was exploded and gone,” Valerie Hartkoorn said.
Their daughter escaped to the roof, and waited for rescue.
At the same time, the truck driver’s daughter was trapped in the cab of the truck, screaming for her life.
“We couldn’t reach the girl,” Valerie Hartkoorn said. “It’s heart-wrenching. You know, I mean, it’s kind of haunting to us to still hear the voice in your head.”
Don Hartkoorn said the trucker’s daughter appeared to be 8 or 9 years old.
A few seconds before the truck hit the Hartkoorns’ house, it demolished the car in which Raelyn Zenon, 20, and her brother, Tyler Weightman, 18, were heading home from church. They were dressed as zombies for a church event when the semi hit them.
“We just see this semi start to drift toward us, and my brother is like, ‘What is he doing? He’s not slowing down,’” Zenon said. “And by the time he tried to slam on the brakes, the semi already hit – I felt a hit once, and I know we probably spun, and we felt a hit again.”
The semi rolled over onto their car, crushing the front and back end.
“A lot of dust; I had my eyes open the whole time. I was just trying to brace myself, but really in my head, I was just hoping that it wasn’t that bad,” Zenon said.
Zenon and got out safely and stood in Hartkoorn’s driveway, where they bumped into Don and Valerie, who had come outside to see if anyone needed help.
“They were standing in my driveway when I walked out, and I asked them, ‘Were you in the truck?’ and they said, ‘No, we’re in the car,’ and it was dark – pitch dark – and I was like, ‘What car?’ And they said, ‘The one under the truck,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, wow,’” Hartkoorn said. “So they were asking us if we were hurt, and by that time, my wife was outside. And also, thanks to a neighbor who got my daughter off the back of the house with the ladder. He came running over with a ladder right away. So good neighbors, great fire and police.”
Zenon and her brother’s parents rushed to the scene after getting a call around 1 a.m.
“My heart dropped; light-headed, and once I actually see my kids come walking up, it was like, ‘Thank you, God,’” said their father, Richard Perkins.
“I swear, God had just that front seat; the two seats protected, because everything in front was smashed. The back is smashed,” said their mother, Jennifer Perkins.
“It’s hard to believe I came out of that. I’m still looking at it right now, and it just doesn’t look like that just happened to me.”
Zenon said she and her brother’s survival is nothing short of miraculous, but her heart was aching for the young girl, whose father died driving the truck. Zenon said she talked to the girl in the hospital.
“I asked her how she was feeling, and she kept asking for her dad,” Raelyn said. “She kept saying, ‘If you see my daddy, I want to see my daddy. Can you tell him to come see me?’”
Hartkoorn said his kitchen, living room and stairwell were reduced to little pieces. But he was thankful that no fire broke out when the truck hit the house, because the story might have been different had that happened.
CBS 2 was told the girl will be placed in the custody of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services until her mother arrives.
Police still do not know what caused Foster to lose control of his truck.