Three bar patrons in Brookfield escaped with only minor injuries last week after a flat-bed tow truck slammed into Slager's, 9308 47th St., demolished part of the front wall and sent building debris and vehicle parts flying into the tavern.
The driver of the tow truck and another motorist were also only slightly injured, according to police.
"One of the paramedics told me to buy a lottery ticket," said a 62-year-old Lyons man who was sitting at a table next to the front window of the bar when the truck hit.
"I didn't see it coming," said the man, who didn't wish to be identified. "I sort of heard a swishing sound and thought, 'What is that?' Then I went flying and landed on the floor sitting up. I didn't know if a bomb went off or it was a gas explosion."
According to police, it was 35-year-old Jeffrey J. Henzler, who was at the wheel of a 2007 Ford F550 tow truck on March 23 at 7:44 p.m. He collided with another vehicle and lost control of the truck.
Henzler was westbound on 47th Street when he allegedly sideswiped a 1995 Buick Park Avenue driven by a 44-year-old Brookfield woman. The Buick careened into a Chevy van parked in front of 9300 47th St. The van was pushed into a Mercury Sable parked next to it.
The driver of the Buick was reportedly treated for injuries at Loyola University Medical Center.
The tow truck hit a bank of windows along the façade of Slager's. When emergency crews arrived, they saw the truck's front end inside the small tavern. The impact sent bricks, car parts, window frames, tables, chairs and glass flying across the front of the bar.
"I got there about a minute later and it looked like a bomb blew up," said bar owner Jimmy Slager, who was on his way to work when the crash happened. It was so devastating. I'm still in shock."
Three patrons inside the bar suffered minor injuries. The man sitting at the table by the window was hit by flying glass and needed stitches in his neck and arm. A 64-year-old woman sitting with him at the table was also thrown from her chair and treated for minor injuries.
A 31-year-old Brookfield man sitting at the bar was sitting with his back to the window when the truck smashed into the business said he was hit in the back by a flying brick.
The long, heavy wooden bar itself was moved about 4 inches north by the impact of objects hitting it. Incredibly, said Slager, no bottles or glasses along the north wall of the bar - which is only about 12 or 15 feet from the windows - were broken.
Henzler was apprehended at the scene by Brookfield police. He was employed by Kustom Automotive Recovery, 9100 Plainfield Road, Brookfield.
Bill Taylor, the owner of Kustom, said that Henzler had been working for him about seven to eight weeks. Henzler has since been fired, Taylor said.
"He was not even supposed to be in the truck. He was on call, and we had no tows all day or night," Taylor said referring to March 23. "It was so dead I told him that he could either stay in the office or go home and wait for a call."
According to Taylor, the tow truck was totaled in the accident.
Slager's, however, reopened for business just 44 hours after the crash. By the morning of March 24, the bar had been cleaned up, Slager said. After shoring up the front wall and boarding up the opening, Slager was pouring drinks at 3:30 p.m. March 25.
Pictures from the crash adorn the plywood south wall across from the bar and Slager said he still has the tow truck's grille, a fender and a tire as souvenirs.
"So many people helped me clean up," Slager said. "It was spotless by the next morning."