Dolton man killed in wrong-way crash

April 30, 2012 2:17:07 PM PDT
A married father of two was killed Monday in an accident involving a wrong-way driver on the Bishop Ford Freeway, authorities said.

According to Illinois State Police, the accident happened around 4:30 a.m. near 115th Street in the inbound lanes.

State police say Ronnie Head, 54, of Dolton, was driving a black Honda Accord when he was hit head-on by the driver of a black Chevorlet Malibu that was going the wrong way. Head was killed in the collision.

The wrong-way driver, Kenneth Owens, 25, of Chicago, was taken to Christ Hospital in critical condition.

Head was a Chicago Tribune employee with 27 years on the job. He was on his way to work as a press operator at the newspaper's Freedom Center plant at the time of the deadly crash.

Representatives of the Chicago Tribune say Head was a "positive and terrific man."

Head would leave his home early every morning for a shift that started at 5 a.m. His wife remembers how he once told her the roads can be dangerous that time of the morning.

"He was saying you have to be very careful driving early in the morning because people are leaving the clubs and they're intoxicated," said Sergenet Head, wife.

Head's wife says he was a devoted husband and father. The couple was planning to renew their wedding vows in June for their 30th anniversary.

"I can't imagine life without him," his wife said. "I don't think that I've really absorbed it yet because I keep saying, this is not happening."

"I know my father would want us to continue and make him proud, and I know he's going to be watching over us," said Sergene Head, daughter.

Meanwhile, crash investigators said they are not sure where the wrong-way driver got on the expressway.

"We don't have any reports on that right now. As you know, 111th and 115th are so close. It's unknown if the driver got on at 115th or 111th at this point," said Lt. Jeffrey Pfotenhauer of Illinois State Police District Chicago.

Authorities said they received several calls about the black Chevy going southbound in the northbound lanes. However, before they arrived, it had crashed into the Honda that Ronnie Head was driving, which careened into a tanker truck before coming to rest near the median.

The driver of the tanker was not hurt.

Emergency crews had to use the Jaws of Life to extricate Head and the wrong-way driver out of their cars. The driver's side of both cars sustained visible damage.

State troopers said alcohol played a role in the accident. No charges have been filed.

Nathaniel Walker, Owens' uncle, says he has not heard details of the crash but that his nephew is a responsible father of a young daughter.

"I have not seen the accident. I have not seen the police report. So there's nothing that I can really say about that," he said.

More than six crashes have occurred in the Chicago area involving wrong-way drivers since late December. In February, four people died when a wrong-way driver crashed on Interstate 80. That same month, police say a driver drove five miles in the wrong direction on the Stevenson Expressway before crashing into someone on the ramp to Lake Shore Drive.

Commuters who sat in traffic and got detoured because of the crash shook their heads when they learned about yet another wrong-way crash.

"People that's out here drinking and stuff like that and they need to find out what's going on because there's been a lot of this happening," said commuter Ray Stephens. "This happened again, and it's a shame."

"Must be aware. I know I must be aware, and those who are on the road have to drive for themselves and for other people," said Alison Cunningham, also a commuter.

Illinois State Police said they are examining the problem.

"We have a safety committee that we're also embarking and doing studies on this and trying to tackle the situation of wrong-way drivers," Pfotenhauer said.

The inbound lanes near the crash site on the Bishop Ford had to be closed for about five hours Monday. The crash was cleared by approximately 9:30 a.m., and all lanes were re-opened.