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updated: 5/28/2014 5:07 AM

'This deer fell from the sky,' West Dundee driver says

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  • Video: Mom describes deer hitting her

  • Heidi Conner of West Dundee describes how a deer jumped off an overpass and crashed through the windshield of her Chevrolet Venture minivan Sunday while driving on the Jane Addams Tollway.

       Heidi Conner of West Dundee describes how a deer jumped off an overpass and crashed through the windshield of her Chevrolet Venture minivan Sunday while driving on the Jane Addams Tollway.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • "I truly feel blessed to be alive," Conner said. "I value life a little differently now. I'm just really grateful."

       "I truly feel blessed to be alive," Conner said. "I value life a little differently now. I'm just really grateful."
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • A deer plunged through the windshield of Heidi Conner's minivan Sunday afternoon as she drove on the Jame Addams Tollway. The West Dundee woman and four children riding with her escaped serious harm.

       A deer plunged through the windshield of Heidi Conner's minivan Sunday afternoon as she drove on the Jame Addams Tollway. The West Dundee woman and four children riding with her escaped serious harm.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Heidi Conner of West Dundee describes how a deer jumped off an overpass and crashed through the windshield of her Chevrolet Venture minivan Sunday while driving on the Jane Addams Tollway.

       Heidi Conner of West Dundee describes how a deer jumped off an overpass and crashed through the windshield of her Chevrolet Venture minivan Sunday while driving on the Jane Addams Tollway.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 

Heidi Conner came out of a daze to hear her 8-year-old daughter screaming in the back seat of their minivan.

Next to the West Dundee mom -- inside the car -- lay the body of a mangled deer. How the 200- to 300-pound doe got there baffled police and emergency room doctors.

They assumed Conner hit the animal Sunday afternoon while driving about 70 mph west on the Jane Addams Tollway near Hoffman Estates.

"I'm like, 'No, a deer hit me,'" she said. "Nobody can believe this deer fell from the sky."

Conner, 37, and four of her five kids were just two exits shy of leaving the tollway when witnesses say the deer jumped off the Route 72 overpass and landed on her 2004 Chevy minivan about noon Sunday, Illinois State Police Master Sgt. Paul Carlos said.

The creature crashed through the windshield, clipping Conner's forehead and shoulder and coming to rest right down the middle of the van. The head settled by the glove compartment between Conner and her 13-year-old son, who was sitting in the front passenger seat.

Conner has no memory of crossing three lanes of traffic -- left without a rearview mirror -- and pulling over to the side of the tollway less than a mile away from the impact. Her eyes were open, but she "wasn't there," her son later told her.

Conner pulled out of the shock and thought of her kids.

"I was scared to turn around," said Conner, her voice dropping to a whisper. "I thought, 'What if they're dead?'"

The collision, doctors said, could have killed her if the deer smashed into the vehicle just inches to the left.

"The precise way it landed in the car is a miracle in itself," Conner said.

Schaumburg paramedics took her and her son, Noah, to St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates. He suffered cuts from the shattered glass. The right side of Conner's face swelled up and she can't move her right arm without pain, but X-rays showed no broken bones.

"I don't believe in luck," Conner said. "I believe in the sovereignty of God, and he obviously was with us."

Conner and the four children, ages 5 to 13, were heading home after packing up her mom's Tennessee house for a move to East Dundee.

The bizarre crash destroyed the car, leaving Conner, who home-schools her kids, without a ride during the day.

Her husband drives a 1996 Toyota to his job at a cellphone carrier. The family will have to hold off on plans to replace that car, with about 200,000 miles on it. And their liability insurance won't cover the cost of a new minivan.

But the couple's children walked away without any emotional scars.

"There's no fear," said Conner, sitting in her home Tuesday by a teddy bear police gave her daughter. "There's no nightmares."

She's still surprised she managed to keep control of the car after the deer tore through the windshield.

"I truly feel blessed to be alive," Conner said. "I value life a little differently now. I'm just really grateful."

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