'I saw a wheel and vehicles all over the place': Investigation continues in 6-car crash
A routine drive to work Thursday morning quickly changed to a scene Lake County Sheriff's Deputy Brad Meister won't forget.
The missing wheel of a pickup truck was hundreds of feet away and other vehicles and parts were strewed on and near busy Route 45 in Libertyville, he said.
"I would say it was in the top 5 worst (accident scenes) I've seen in 22 years," said Meister, the first authority to arrive at the site of the horrific crash involving six vehicles on Route 45 near Route 137.
"Just the sheer amount of vehicle parts all over the place. Cars up on the median, cars up on the hill," Meister recalled Friday.
The collisions occurred about 7:40 a.m. Thursday. Most of the debris was in the northbound lanes, but an engine block assembly wound up in the southbound lane.
Three drivers were injured, including two who were extricated from their vehicles. Remarkably, no one was killed.
The injured were said to be in stable condition Thursday afternoon, but no update from Libertyville police was available Friday.
Route 45 between Casey and Peterson roads was closed for more than 4 hours as a result. Investigators on Friday were still piecing together what happened.
No tickets had been issued as of midday Friday. Libertyville police are being assisted by the Lake County Major Crash Team.
"With the extent of the accident scene, the investigators are still trying to accurately determine how the accident may have occurred, to include the order of collisions, direction of travel of all vehicles, and what exactly had taken place based on statements by all parties involved," Libertyville police Sgt. Ed Swider said.
Swider said as far as he knows, the only people involved in the crash were the drivers of the six cars.
"Based on the pictures in the news, we are lucky no lives were lost," he said.
Meister has been with the sheriff's office for 18 years and currently is the school resource officer at the Lake County Tech High Schools Tech Campus in Grayslake. He also has been a part-time firefighter/EMT at the Antioch Fire Department for 14 years.
He was on his way to work on Route 137 and about to exit onto Route 45. Southbound Route 45 traffic was stopped, which was unusual. Meister continued to the area on Route 45, just south of the train overpass and Route 137 bridge, to investigate.
"I saw a wheel and vehicles all over the place," he said. "I also saw an entire engine assembly sitting in the southbound lane. That's when I started asking for help."
He came upon a woman who appeared to be severely injured trapped in her vehicle.
"I went over and started trying to render aid and talk to her. There was so much damage to the vehicle, we couldn't get the doors open," Meister said.
"I told her I was there to help her. I asked her to remain calm and not to move," he added.
Libertyville police and firefighters arrived, and an alarm for assistance from other departments was sounded. At that point, Meister went to Casey Road to block southbound traffic.
"All I can say is I'm thankful there was nobody killed," he said.