Tree branch falls, impales Smart car driver

October 26, 2010 (LINDENHURST, Ill.)

Emergency crews were dispatched to Grand Avenue just east of Deep Lake Road in Lindenhurst around 7:45 a.m. They rescued Helen Miller, an art teacher at Waukegan School District 60, and transported her to Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville. Her husband, Todd, said she is doing quite well and that the tree limb missed the lung and stomach, puncturing only fat and muscle.

After surgery Helen Miller had just one request.

"She actually had me save the tree branch. It's in the back of our car. She wants to do an art project or something like that," said Todd Miller.

Todd Miller held the tree branch Tuesday night that could very easily have killed his wife.

"It was a well placed puncture. It didn't puncture any critical organs, we're very fortunate in that regard," said Todd Miller.

Officials said heavy winds broke the dead tree branch and it crashed into the woman's Smart car. The weight of the branch broke through the windshield and the branch impaled the driver.

Officials said it took 20 minutes for them to extricate Helen Miller from the wrecked smart car. She was alert, and even joking with paramedics on the ride to the hospital.

Just last year at the same hospital, Mrs. Miller underwent a complex and dangerous procedure to close a hole in her heart. After Tuesday's incident, her daughter joked she thinks mom has used up several of her nine lives.

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