Another crash near River Forest Metra

Three days after a driver drove into a man's garage, another struck his house

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By Nona Tepper

A car blew through the intersection of Thatcher and Hawthorne avenues at 2:05 a.m. of March 29, striking a house whose garage had been heavily damaged in a crash three days earlier.

"I can't believe it," said Joe O'Connor, whose property in the 300 block of Thatcher Avenue was damaged in both incidents.

In a statement, River Forest police said that officers attempted to pull a vehicle over for speeding on the 1500 block of Thatcher at about 2:01 a.m. on March 29. The Nissan Rogue refused to stop, traveled south on Thatcher Avenue at a high rate of speed and failed to navigate the T-intersection at Hawthorne Avenue.

The car jumped the curb and drove through a wood fence and the backyard of 355 Thatcher Ave. before striking a maple tree and flipping into the rear bay window of O'Connor's home at 351 Thatcher Ave.

"There's a lot of tow marks on the house from when they had to tow the car out of here," he said.

O'Connor said his wife, Joan, woke to the sound of the crash in the early morning, thinking a tree branch had fallen on their home. She walked from the bedroom downstairs and found a man and a woman fleeing the Nissan Rogue that was standing on its side behind her home.

"There is minor fracturing around the frame [of the bay window] but the glass is intact at the moment," O'Connor said.

Police found the female passenger of the vehicle at the O'Connor's property, and transported her to the hospital for treatment of injuries, according to the police statement. The male driver fled the scene on foot.

On social media, resident Dan Gill posted that police apprehended a man in connection with the incident. The man reportedly was hiding under Gill's car in the 300 block of Keystone Avenue at about 2:30 a.m. The man had previously been hiding under Gill's deck.

"We picked it up on our security camera and the police were there by the time I got downstairs," Gill posted. "They have been back searching for a possible weapon since 5 a.m."

A Chicago man, 22, was taken into custody and transported to the hospital for treatment of unspecified injuries. Charges are pending.

"It is suspected that [he] was driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs," police said in a statement.

O'Connor said there should be anti-terrorist bollards -- which are waist-high concrete structures -- at the intersection to prevent vehicles traveling at a high rate of speed from going through his lawn or garage again.

"You can put stop signs, do all kinds of things, but anybody going at a high rate of speed is not going to stop at a stop sign," he said.

This is the second accident involving the same two properties in the last three days.

Police apprehended a 39-year-old Skokie man at about 1:50 a.m. on March 26 on the River Forest Metra platform, after he jumped the curb on Hawthorne Avenue and drove through the garages at 355 and 351 Thatcher Ave.

"It was definitely a horrific event. I don't think I've ever seen a vehicle pass through one garage and then completely enter a second and then destroy that and the two vehicles inside," Police Chief James O'Shea said.

In that incident, a Dodge Charger failed to again navigate the T-intersection, left the roadway and slammed into a frame garage on the south side of Hawthorne Avenue. The vehicle punched holes through both the north and the south walls of that garage and then barreled through the brick wall of O'Connor's garage immediately to the south, where it crashed into his two vehicles parked inside.

The Skokie man then fled the scene and ran up onto the Metra platform, where police eventually caught him. He was charged with reckless driving, driving under the influence of drugs, failure to reduce speed to avoid accident, failure to give information after striking property.

"Anytime you have an intersection at a street that curves or creates almost like a T, there is a need for increased awareness and definitely no distracted driving," O'Shea said.  "There's no room for error in those circumstances."

Neighbor Marjorie Morningstar said nearby residents are "furious" over the two accidents.

"We're all very shook up. Maybe this will put a fire under people's butts to get some answers, not just of the village, but from the police," Morningstar said. "A lot of neighbors are furious. We think this is not a coincidence, that there is something going on that is causing people to accelerate at that intersection, some kind of criminal element."

She said these aren't the first crashes to happen at that intersection. Last summer, Morningstar remembers another car running through the intersection and knocking down a portion of the backyard fence of the house on the corner of Hawthorne and Thatcher.

Morningstar believes the village needs to install large yellow signs, a barricade or even speed bumps at the intersection to remind drivers to slow down.

In February, River Forest trustees approved a plan to add nearly 70 stop signs to village streets, although officials are waiting to hear back about a state grant before implementing changes.

"Maybe we just need more officers out there, considering we pay so much money in taxes," she said.

CONTACT: ntepper@wjinc.com

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