1 dead after semi crashes into Calumet City home

May 24, 2012 4:14:12 PM PDT
A semi truck crashed into the front of a home in south suburban Calumet City early Thursday morning, killing the driver and injuring three others.

The semi swerved out of control, its trailer smashed the backend of a car and then the cab slammed into the house near Torrence and Michigan City Road.

The truck driver was identified as Joseph Foster, 37, of Talmo, Ga., according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office.

Witnesses say Foster's daughter, between the age of 8-11, was riding with him and that she was also hurt. She was taken to St. Margaret Mercy Hospital in Hammond, Ind., and treated for minor injuries. The homeowners heard her calling for help.

"We heard there was a little girl in the truck crying, and I heard it, and I couldn't identify exactly where it was coming from, and at that point, I didn't even know it was a semi," said homeowner Don Hartkoorn. "They extricated her from the side of the truck immediately, and thank God there was no fire."

The cab of the semi stopped just a foot away from where Hartkoorn's wife Valerie was sleeping.

"The engine is resting on my bedroom wall," she said.

Raelyn Zenon, 20, and her brother Tyler, 18, were on their way home from a church event when the semi hit their car before slamming into the house. They suffered only minor injuries.

"We could see this semi start to drift on our side of the road, and my brother started saying, 'Why isn't he slowing down?' It's just amazing that it could have been the front of the car instead of the back of the car," said Raelyn Zenon, tearing up. "I believe God was protecting us and keeping us safe so we walked out fine."

Zenon and her parents came back to the scene Thursday morning, but first they went to the hospital to visit the truck driver's daughter as authorities try to track down her family.

"It's just so sad, so sad. She's so sweet and just so worried about the load and worried about her dad," said Jennifer Perkins, Zenon's mother.

Crews spent the morning unloading oranges from the truck's trailer. After the semi is out of the home, engineers will determine if the home needs to be repaired or leveled and rebuilt.

Don Hartkoorn, who is also a truck driver, says he is understanding of the stress and said it's normal for truck drivers to bring their children with them on the road because sometimes it's the only time they get to see their kids.

Hartkoorn says at the time of the crash, he was in the kitchen. He said that his wife and daughter were sleeping. None of them was hurt.

"I heard screeching of brakes that didn't stop, and heard an impact and then the house exploded. I exited the house as soon as I could, and the two kids that were in the car were standing in my driveway, and it is just amazing that they were also OK," said Hartkoorn.

He says his insurance company will be helping the family out as they look for a place to stay.

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