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3 dead, 11 hurt in 11-vehicle crash in Oak Lawn

By Steve Metsch, Sun-Times Media

Three people were killed and at least 11 were hospitalized — two of in critical condition — in an 11-vehicle crash Sunday in Oak Lawn, village officials said.

One of the dead was the driver of a pickup truck that had been driving erratically on westbound 95th Street before crossing Cicero Avenue and veering into traffic stopped at the red light in the eastbound lanes, village manager Larry Deetjen said. The other two people who were killed were passengers in one of the cars stopped at that light, he said. The ages and genders of those two were not available.

Eleven vehicles were involved in the incident, which occurred about 4:27 p.m., police said in a news release. Witnesses said the pickup truck was speeding, police said.

Oak Lawn Police Division Chief Randy Palmer said Sunday night that there was no indication that he was fleeing police. Police were investigating reports that someone approached the man’s vehicle at 95th Street and Western Avenue, prompting him to drive off, and that he hit a vehicle at 95th and Keeler Avenue before continuing westbound on 95th.

Deetjen said the man ran the red light at Cicero and veered into the turning lane of eastbound 95th and “the truck flipped in the air and struck more vehicles.”

Palmer said it was too early to determine if alcohol played a role in the crash.

Of the 11 people taken to hospitals, two were in critical condition, one person’s condition was described as noncritical and eight were being treated for minor injuries. Police were trying to identify victims so they could notify the next of kin.

An Oak Lawn man who said he was hurt in the crash was at the Oak Lawn Police Department on Sunday night to give a witness account, he said.

Kimothy Randall, 55, of Oak Lawn, whose left arm was in a sling, said he had a sore left shoulder and neck. He and his wife were at the red light on 95th Street when the crash occurred.

“All of a sudden, we heard, ‘Boom, boom, boom.’ I didn’t know where it was coming from,” he said. “Then I see all the cars in front of us being pushed back to us. All of a sudden, the truck just dropped down. It crushed the car in front of me, then it landed on our car.”

Police were trying to identify victims so they could notify the next of kin.

Rick Gile, the area manager of the Mattress Firm, on the corner of the intersection, said he saw the pickup truck come “flying westbound. The east-west traffic was stopped. He somehow got through the north-south traffic. All the cars were parked at the traffic light and he plowed into them. The pickup truck ramped up a minivan and nose-dived into the rest of the cars.”

Janae Mitchell and Pat Davis, both of Chicago’s Washington Heights neighborhood, said they were eastbound on 95th Street after seeing a movie in Chicago Ridge.

“We saw the truck flip in the air. It was horrible,” Mitchell said. “This is like something you see in a movie.”

Davis said they would have been in the middle of it if they hadn’t stopped at the mall after the movie.

Cicero had reopened by about 5:45 p.m., but 95th Street west of Cicero was closed in both directions and was expected to remain closed for hours. Investigators still were on the scene after dusk, with floodlights lighting up the area.