By Bob Uphues
UPDATED: Jan. 2, 2019 at 3:40 p.m.
Riverside police have learned that prior to an 84-year-old woman driving her 2015 Chevy Camaro into the South Gate at Brookfield Zoo and ending up on the south mall inside the park itself on Dec. 27 at about 9:20 p.m., she reportedly had sideswiped a vehicle parked in the 100 block of Ridgewood Road in front of Riverside-Brookfield High School.
Police Chief Thomas Weitzel told the Landmark that surveillance cameras at the high school captured the Camaro heading westbound on Ridgewood Road, where it demolished the driver's side mirror and damaged a quarter panel of a parked car parked on the north side of Ridgewood Road about five minutes before police were called to the zoo about a car inside the zoo.
Cameras also caught the vehicle entering the zoo through the South Gate via Golf Road and then heading east on an access road once inside the gate.
Police did not immediately report the initial hit-and-run incident, because the owner of the vehicle parked on Ridgewood Road did not notifty them of the damage until later.
For the hit and run accident, police issued the 84-year-old driver of the Camaro tickets for failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident and leaving the scene of a property damage accident. They had issued two traffic citations previously for the incident inside the zoo.
An 84-year-old Riverside woman received a pair of traffic tickets on Dec. 27 after she drove into Brookfield Zoo through a driveway used by staff and wound up crashing into a concrete post on the south mall inside the zoo grounds while being escorted out by police.
The zoo was closed at the time of the incident and no patrons were inside, said Leah Rippe, vice president of marketing and communications for the Chicago Zoological Society, which operates Brookfield Zoo. No one was injured.
Rippe declined to say exactly where the Riverside woman drove her red 2015 Chevy Camaro into the zoo property, saying she did not have that information. However, she said the vehicle entered via a driveway that was clearly marked "Staff Only" and not too far from where it ended up, a couple of hundred feet inside the zoo's South Gate.
"We're glad she's OK and glad no one got hurt," said Rippe.
Brookfield Zoo police initially stopped the Camaro about 9:20 p.m., about 20 minutes after the zoo had shut down its Holiday Magic event for the night. A zoo officer walked up to the vehicle to talk to the driver, who told him she was trying to get to Ogden Avenue.
Brookfield Zoo police attempted to guide her out of the zoo, but the driver turned off of the sidewalk area and into the grass of the south mall where the Camaro struck a post.
Riverside police who responded to the scene recognized the driver as someone who had been involved in a nighttime driving mishap on Nov. 6.
In that incident, the woman reportedly drove the Camaro into a tree in front of her house while trying to enter her driveway. Police reported she'd also driven over the curb and the grass parkway before hitting the tree.
At the time, according to the police report, the woman told police she does not see well at night and normally doesn't drive after dark. She was ticketed for that incident as well, and police at that time sent a request to the Illinois Secretary of State for the woman to be re-examined for a driver's license.
The woman was involved in a minor crash at night in November 2016 at South Delaplaine Road and East Quincy Street. She reportedly veered into oncoming traffic while making a wide turn into her driveway, colliding with an oncoming vehicle in the process.
The photo captions for this story have been corrected to reflect the agency which provided them.