Oak Park police expect Lake Street to remain closed between Kenilworth and Forest Avenues until later this afternoon while they investigate a nearly block long accident scene involving a PACE bus and 10 other vehicles.
Around 11 a.m. this morning the driver of a PACE bus under contract to Oak Park Township apparently passed out as he turned east off of Forest onto Lake. One witness said the driver appeared unconscious.
The bus slammed into a westbound car, then careened right, into a second car, pushing it into two other vehicles. After smashing head on into a fifth car, the bus careened left, across the oncoming lanes and striking an unoccupied parked pickup truck, heavily damaging the driver’s side front panel.
Maria Torres of Oak Park, said she was walking with her husband, eastbound on the north side of Lake when she heard a bang.
“I heard one hit. Then we heard various hits,” she said. She looked back to see the bus bearing down on them. “He never let go of the gas,” said Torres.
She and her husband, Jose Chaparro, “ran with all our might” eastward. She credits Jesse Howard’s Ford pickup with shielding them from the bus and sending it away from them.
“This pickup truck saved our lives. We would have been dead,” said Torres.
The bus careened back across Lake, traveled over the parkway, destroyed an electric lawn sign in front of Calvary Memorial Church before striking three more cars, one of which was pushed into tenth vehicle.
Sgt. Dina Vardal said the driver was able to talk with police and paramedics afterwards.
“He’s OK now, walking and talking,” said Vardal, who said the driver, described only as a middle aged man, was taken to the hospital for treatment and observation.
“PACE will handle it from here,” she said. Vardal said the driver will be charged with a number of traffic citations, “depending on his condition.”
Police, meanwhile, must reconstruct the nearly block long accident scene prior to re-opening Lake Street to traffic.
“As long as it takes,” Deputy Chief Carl Liedy said when asked just after noon when the street might be cleared. “We have to reconstruct the entire scene.”