Around 4:15 a.m., Vanessa Castillo, 25, of Chicago, drove a silver Chrysler the wrong way on the outbound Kennedy Expressway, police said. Her car clipped two vehicles before crashing head-on into a black Nissan near Division St. The impact decimated the cars, leaving metal strewn across the expressway.
Nancy Sandoval, 34, was driving the Nissan. She was rushed to Northwestern Memorial Hospital with serious leg injuries and is hospitalized in serious condition. Castillo was also taken to a local hospital.
Peter Walus of Grayslake was in one of the two cars Castillo clipped before crashing.
"My driver side mirror gets blown apart to pieces. I hit some guy right next to me. And in the rear view, all I see is a couple cars in the air for a second," Peter Walus, wrong-way crash victim, said. "My car is smaller than the car that got hit. And I've seen the car that got hit, and there's pretty much nothing left of that. I probably wouldn't be talking to you right now."
Castillo is charged with multiple violations, including driving under the influence and operating a vehicle without a license. Hers was suspended more than two years ago because she didn't have insurance.
"She was cruising and totally thought everything was fine. There [were] definitely cars, you know, coming at her for who knows how long," Walus said.
This is the sixth wrong-way crash in the Chicago are in a little more than a month.
"Sometimes these things happen in clusters. I'm hoping this is not a long term trend," said Emeritus Prof. Siim Soot, UIC Urban Transportation Center, said.
Soot, a transportation specialist, said sensors and alarms are being developed to help provide more warning to wrong-way drivers, but their cost makes them impractical. At the Armitage off-ramp, where it's believed Castillo got on the Kennedy, multiple "wrong way" and "no turn" signs are posted.
"I think the real serious problem we have in this country is alcohol. We still don't, haven't comes to grips with the number of crashes that are associated with alcohol use," Soot said.
Officials say a semi-truck barely missed hitting the cars after the crash, and had that happened, it could have been much worse.