JOLIET, Ill. - A pregnant woman was killed Tuesday when a 100-pound wheel hub came loose from a semitrailer on Interstate 80 near Joliet and smashed into their windshield.
Melinda Cullen, 38, of Coal City, was on her way home from work at the time of the accident. She was due to deliver her baby, a son, in ten days.
Cullen's parents-in-law, Charles Cullen and Peggy Bingham, last saw Cullen Sunday.
"We would give anything to not see this happened," Charles Cullen said. "We just lost so much."
About 2:20 p.m., the semitrailer was headed east on I-80 when a wheel hub came off the trailer's rear axle near Rowell Avenue and crossed over into the westbound lanes of traffic, according to Illinois State Police.
The lost hub collided with the windshield of Cullen's SUV as it headed west, killing her at the wheel, state police said.
"You don't expect something like this here, how it happened," Charles Cullen said. "She was just in that place at that time. I sat up last night wondering if she would have been five minutes or 3 minutes, one way or the other, they would missed it."
Witness Rob Bishop said Cullen's car took a direct hit from the tire.
"First thing I thought of was that could happen to anyone at any time," said Bishop. "And that poor person in that vehicle probably never saw it coming...There was two state police officers next to it and there was a pretty big gaping hole in the windshield right in front of where the driver's face would have been."
Cullen was rushed to the hospital, where she and her unborn son were pronounced dead.
"She was just a sweet girl," Bingham said. "I can't believe that she is gone. That baby. I was hoping that baby would make it, it would have meant a lot."
Cullen is survived by her husband, Dave Cullen, and three daughters, ages 8, 5 and 15 months.
"Melinda was such a wonderful woman, and her and my son were like they were made for each other," Charles Cullen said.
"I don't think anybody would have anything bad to say about Melinda. She was a sweetheart, a good mother," Bingham said. "I am going to miss her."
Three years ago, ABC7 looked into similar crashes and discovered that they are rare, but often go unreported.
The driver of the semi has been charged with a Federal Safety Act violation for unsafe equipment. The I-Team did not find any previous violations for that driver.
Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.