I-Team Report: The man behind the wheel

June 18, 2009 2:48:36 PM PDT
The I-Team shares an exclusive interview with the widow of a truck driver who was involved in a deadly Chinatown crash. That accident last year killed two and injured more than 20 at a CTA station.

The pictures of truck driver Donald Wells are unforgettable. Wells appeared dazed and disheveled when police walked him in custody after the tragic Chinatown accident in April 2008.

The man behind the wheel was never charged with any wrongdoing but his widow, Darlene Wells, says that Chicago police deliberately withheld medical treatment from her husband and that it ended up killing him.

Watch an extended interview with Darlene and Doreen Wells

"It was devastating, I thought I could never smile again," said Darlene Wells, truck driver's widow.

Donald Wells' tractor-trailer had plowed straight into the Chinatown El station, killing two and injuring 21.

Mr. Wells' widow and daughter say they called police for two days to get information about him.

"They would say, no he's not here, he's somewhere else and they gave me another number and I was concerned because I knew he had high blood pressure that he controlled by medication. I asked them if he could take his medication and they said no," said Darlene Wells.

A TV clip - a police walk - was all they saw of him for two days.

"It was devastating. My dad was a very good man and there was no need to do a public humiliation of him like that," said Doreen Wells, truck driver's daughter.

The Wells family has filed a federal lawsuit accusing numerous Chicago police officers of ignoring Wells' injuries and failing to provide him medical care.

According to the suit, for 48 hours Wells was in custody at Area one headquarters on a concrete floor, without adequate water and in obvious medical distress.

A six hour-long Chicago police video tape said to show his "condition as ill, weak, confused, talking incoherently, defecating and urinating on the floor."

"There was a judgment made that Mr. Wells must have committed some criminal wrongdoing. I can't tell you what was in the minds of these police officers or the Chicago Police Department but I do know that Mr. Wells was villanized," said Scott Frost, Wells' lawyer.

After two days in custody and no charges filed, wells was rushed by ambulance to the hospital. He never got out.

"Out of the week I was there, he only knew my name one day," said Doreen Wells.

He died less than two months later.

City lawyers and Chicago police told the I-Team they would not discuss a pending lawsuit.

In a court filing officers deny every allegation, stating that they did not witness Wells in medical distress; although two officers admit noticing Wells appeared "lethargic, confused."

"I wish he had medical attention. That concerns me the most," said Darlene Wells.

"He was always a seeker of the truth and he would want us to know what the answers are," said Doreen Wells.

No drugs or alcohol were found during blood tests after the crash. An autopsy provided no clear answers. Wells' lawyers say he suffered some "medical event" before the crash. But, regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit, even they say the precise cause of the Chinatown accident may never be determined.

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