Officials: Driver who hit Arlington Heights police station was speeding close to 100 mph
Arlington Heights police say a Georgia man was driving fast -- not triple digits on the speedometer, but close -- when he lost control of his car Sunday night and struck a curb, benches, a fire hydrant and a mini-retaining wall before crashing into the new village police station.
"Striking those objects as he left the roadway slowed him down and may have prevented even more damage," police Cmdr. Shawn Gyorke said Monday.
The driver, a 44-year-old Brookhaven, Georgia man, was in critical condition Monday with lung and rib injuries, police said. Firefighters had to cut him from his smashed 2015 Volkswagen GTI sedan, which came to rest on its side near the station's front entrance.
Because of the driver's extensive injuries, police haven't been able to interview him, so they still don't know where he was coming from or where he was going, or why someone from suburban Atlanta was in suburban Chicago.
Here's what police on Monday said they do know:
The driver likely was speeding and lost control of his car two blocks from the station, where the angled Davis Street turns into the east-west Sigwalt Street, Gyorke said. That's where the first sign of tire marks appear, he added.
As the driver rounded the curve, his car passed Fire Station No. 1, then struck the curb directly in front of the police station, began to roll over, and finally struck the building, pushing the wall in seven feet, officials said.
First responders arrived at 5:28 p.m. Sunday. Only one car was involved, and nobody else was in the vehicle.
Police have interviewed a single witness -- a village employee who was at the fire station -- who saw the crash unfold. Investigators still plan to collect evidence from the car and also will look to see if newly installed cameras on the police station captured the crash.
"Based on the length of the scene and the witness' testimony, (the speed) may not be triple digits, but it's certainly going to be close," Gyorke said.
It's too early to say if there will be any criminal charges or citations, Gyorke said, adding that the initial investigation shows the crash was accidental.
The new two-level, 70,500-square-foot police department headquarters -- almost ready to open after more than a year on the $27.9 million construction project -- was unoccupied. Officials plan to bring out a structural engineer this week to evaluate whether the building is safe.
While an official opening date hadn't been set, the department was close to moving in. Contractor Riley Construction and police officials had spent the last two weeks going floor by floor to review final cosmetic "punch list" items like paint, with the final walk-through planned for Thursday.
"Based on what happened (Sunday) night, I can't say it will set us back yet. It just happened," said Deputy Police Chief Nick Pecora. "We're going to need the structural engineers to take a look at the integrity of the building. We don't want to compromise anybody's safety."
Until they can move in the new building, police will continue to operate out of their temporary headquarters at 1500 W. Shure Drive.