By Bob Uphues
Riverside police are reporting that the driver of a gravel truck involved in a rollover crash on First Avenue on July 12 said his truck's brakes failed as he attempted to stop while approaching 31st Street.
According to Riverside Deputy Police Chief William Gutschick, the 61-year-old driver, a Romeoville resident, was driving his 1997 Peterbilt semi-tractor hauling a load of gravel northbound on First Avenue at about 6 a.m. when he attempted to brake as he approached stopped traffic.
But the brakes apparently failed, according to Gutschick, causing the driver to pull the truck to the right onto the parkway east of First Avenue. The truck struck one light pole south of 31st Street and then continued across 31st Street where it hit another light pole and the curb, which caused the truck to flip over onto its side.
Gutschick said no other vehicles or people were involved in the crash.
Josh Mozdzen, a Brookfield resident, was in a vehicle stopped facing eastbound on 31st Street at First Avenue as the crash unfolded. According to Mozdzen, First Avenue traffic had just gotten a red light, and cars were turning from 31st Street onto First Avenue when he saw the truck barrel through the intersection.
At first, Mozdzen thought the truck was simply blowing through the red light.
"He was hauling ass," Mozdzen said.
But the truck quickly slid sideways as it went through the intersection and was already on its side when it hit the light pole on the north side of 31st Street, according to Mozdzen.
"I can't believe he lived and that no one else was killed," Mozdzen said.
First Avenue between First Avenue and Golfview Avenue remained closed to traffic for more than three-and-a-half hours as crews cleaned up the scene. Firefighters from Riverside and North Riverside extricated the driver from the truck, which came to rest north of 31st Street on the grass parkway east of First Avenue.
The driver reportedly suffered a head injury in the crash. Gutschick said the driver was in fair condition at Loyola University Medical Center, where he was taken by North Riverside paramedics. According to Gutschick, the driver was able to communicate with first responders at the scene.
Riverside Fire Chief Matthew Buckley said that the crash began to unfold about 60 feet south of 31st Street in Riverside. In addition to removing the driver from the truck, firefighters also worked to control a diesel fuel spill from the saddle tank of the vehicle, Buckley said.
Illinois State Police were called to the scene to inspect the truck to confirm if a mechanical failure contributed to the crash, said Gutschick.
Riverside police cited the driver for improper overtaking on the right, having defective brakes, spilling the truck's load on a highway, disobeying a traffic control signal and possessing no proof of vehicle insurance.