Newspaper carrier discover power of words after sinkhole

  • San Juanita Pineda of Elgin, pictured, and her son Benjamin Hernandez were injured when they fell into a sinkhole while driving along a dark, rural road July 1, 2014. Pineda holds a copy of the Daily Herald published the day after the accident.

      San Juanita Pineda of Elgin, pictured, and her son Benjamin Hernandez were injured when they fell into a sinkhole while driving along a dark, rural road July 1, 2014. Pineda holds a copy of the Daily Herald published the day after the accident. Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • A car fell into a sinkhole on Thomas Road in rural Kane County after overnight rains washed a way a section of the road. San Juan Pineda was delivering papers in the dark and didn't see the hole.

    A car fell into a sinkhole on Thomas Road in rural Kane County after overnight rains washed a way a section of the road. San Juan Pineda was delivering papers in the dark and didn't see the hole. Tim Norton/Radioman911.com/Special to the Daily Herald

 
 
Posted10/4/2015 6:12 AM

San Juanita Pineda of Elgin and her son Ben were delivering newspapers in the early morning hours of July 1, 2014, when their car fell into a sinkhole that had opened up across a stretch of road in rural Kane County. She spoke to Staff Writer Elena Ferrarin recently for an update on her story. Here is what she had to say:

"It's not easy to talk to the news media while you're going through a painful family tragedy, but it helped to get the word out -- and a lot of people responded.

 

"I talked to the Daily Herald first, then the TV news came out. I was surprised by the response, I didn't expect that.

"I got financial help from people that don't know me, and it's like they say, 'Every grain of rice helps.'

"When I had the accident, I had been working as a contractor delivering Daily Herald newspapers for three years. Two of my customers off my route contacted me after the accident and helped me out. We also got cards sent to us. I still have them. And I got two phone calls from people who said they called a local TV station and wanted to help us.

"But unfortunately I'm still not doing OK. Life has been hard after the accident.

"My son Ben is coming along but he still has to deal with his tooth problems. I am doing worse, my knee pain especially is worse, and I still can't work. Things have been very difficult, but for sure I am grateful to all the people who did help in the beginning."

Editor's note: This is an abbreviated version of an anniversary story published on July 2, 2015.

More than a year after a 10-foot-long sinkhole swallowed her car, San Juanita Pineda can't bring herself to drive at night.

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"I am still terrified," the Elgin woman said. "I just can't do it."

Pineda and her son Benjamin Hernandez, now 17, were injured after their car plunged into a 10-foot-sinkhole in the early morning hours of July 1, 2014, while delivering newspapers along a dark, rural road in Kane County.

After their ordeal made the Daily Herald and other local news, people rallied around the family, donating almost $12,000 to help with medical expenses. An Elgin car dealership donated a used car, which unfortunately was totaled in an accident a few months later, Pineda said.

"I was very thankful for all the people that did help out," Pineda said.

But life's been tough for mother and son, who said they still haven't fully recovered from their injuries.

Ben, who lost two teeth and suffered a broken jaw and a broken rib, said he takes over-the-counter pain medication every few days to deal with bouts of back pain. Otherwise, he's well enough to walk to school and play basketball with his buddies, although not too roughly, he said.

Pineda, who had shoulder surgery, said she has pain in her shoulder, arm, knees and legs, and can't sit or stand for long periods of time. She has been unable to work since the accident, she said.

"There's no amount of money that is going to relieve the amount of pain we're going through, the suffering that I'm going through."

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