Riverside police continue to investigate a crash on March 5 around 6:40 p.m. that killed the driver of a vehicle which left the roadway and crashed into the digital display sign, demolishing it, outside Riverside-Brookfield High School at the corner of First Avenue and Ridgewood Road.
It is unclear what led to 70-year-old Walter Staszko, of Chicago, losing control of his vehicle, a black 1966 Chevy Nova, but Riverside Public Safety Director Matthew Buckley said that speed does not appear to have been a factor.
The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office was scheduled to conduct an autopsy on March 7, after the Landmark’s print deadline. Social media messages posted in the wake of the crash indicate that Staszko was driving to his home in the Garfield Ridge neighborhood in Chicago after showcasing his classic hot rod at the World of Wheels car show in Rosemont earlier in the day.
According to Buckley, Staszko was headed southbound on First Avenue approaching Ridgewood Road when the Chevy first clipped the rear end of another southbound vehicle traveling in front of it before veering to the right and into the sign supported by a pair of brick columns.
The impact of the crash destroyed the sign and caused heavy damage to the vehicle. Emergency personnel were able to remove Staszko from the car and they performed lifesaving measures, according to Buckley, before transporting him to Loyola University Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 7:14 p.m.
Staszko was the sole occupant of the Chevy Nova. The other vehicle sustained minor damage. No one else was hurt.
Riverside police called the West Suburban Major Crimes Task Force (WESTAF) crash investigation team to assist in its investigation, and police remained in the area processing the scene for several hours.
Riverside-Brookfield High School Superintendent Kevin Skinkis told the Landmark that he expects the school district will have to completely replace the digital display sign and supports.
Staszko had owned the Chevy Nova, emblazoned with the name “Touch & Go II,” since he was a teenager growing up in Cicero, according to a 2018 article titled “Vintage Racer Reborn: The Return of Touch & Go II” by Louis Kimery on the Chevy Hardcore website.
Over time, Staszko made the Nova into a drag-racing muscle car, which he raced in the 1970s and into the 1980s. After leaving the race scene, the car went into storage for years until Staszko had it fully restored as a street vehicle.
“I was 12 years old when I first saw this car competing at the drags,” Staszko told Kimery for his 2018 feature. “It brings back a lot of heartfelt emotions to see it again [restored] after all these years.”