Car hits townhome, gas line causing explosion
By Frank Abderholden firstname.lastname@example.org | @abderholden October 25, 2013 9:06AM
Updated: November 27, 2013 6:06AM
A 32-year-old white male from Kenosha, Wisconsin, under guard in a hospital, is being uncooperative after he allegedly drove his vehicle into a Hainesville townhome, hitting a gas meter, causing a fire that destroyed one townhome and badly damaging another early Friday, Oct. 25.
Lieka Racho, 39, and her children, two boys, ages 10 and 9, and a 3-year-old daughter, were all sleeping at 4 a.m. when their townhouse at 450 N. Patriot Drive was hit by a motorist who went off Hainesville Road at a high rate of speed and hit their garage and front door, severing a gas line at the meter.
“I’m not a deep sleeper. The impact was really loud and it shook our house,” said Racho. “It sounded like a car was trying to reverse out,” she continued, “911 was the first thing on my mind.”
“Our bedroom is on top of the garage. I couldn’t see anything, but it sounded like someone trying to get into the house,” she said. Her husband, Frederick, 40, was at work.
“I looked out into the garage and saw flames and could hear a hissing sound,” she said. Racho grabbed her children and they made it down the stairs and over to a neighbor’s house. “Then we watched the flames go up in our house,” she said, adding that she was thankful her parents no longer lived with her because they are older and would have had a harder time getting out quickly.
“It’s hard to see it all burned down,” said Racho, “I’m just glad everyone’s safe.” On hearing the suspect in the vehicle ran, she shook her head. “It’s terrible to know someone just took off,” she said.
Jeffrey Myhra, operations commander for the Grayslake Police Department, said they responded to the address after a 911 hang-up telephone call and an officer was there in a minute.
He broke out the back window of the Grand Cherokee Jeep to try and get the driver, but he couldn’t see anyone through the smoke. The vehicle was on top of the ruptured gas line and police began evacuating the two other attached townhomes.
No one was in the vehicle, but the owner of a townhouse just a few doors away called 911 to report a suspicious person hiding under their truck parked in the driveway. “He was wet from head to toe so he must have gone through some nearby wetlands,” said Myhra.
“He was completely soaked and lethargic and hypothermic. We put him a squad car to try and warm him up before an ambulance took him to the hospital.
“He is not cooperative and he has not said anything about being involved in the incident,” he said. They are in contact with people associated with the vehicle and they do not expect to file charges until sometime this weekend. “I don’t think he was in any condition to run,” he said, disputing earlier reports that he fled police.
“But we’re assuming he’s connected to the vehicle,” he said. He was taken to Advocate Condell Medical Center, Libertyville, and was still being treated Friday afternoon. Police were not sure when he would be released from the hospital.
Myhra said the townhome adjacent to Racho’s was severely damaged and that family will need to find a place to stay. A third attached townhome also suffered some smoke damage and he was not sure if they could move back in.
Myhra said the Jeep was traveling southbound on Hainesville Road and crossed over the opposite lane and off the roadway right at the Avon Township Youth Baseball & Softball Complex, hitting the sign. President of the youth league Clay Crutcher, who also is in charge of maintnance, surveyed the crushed sign for the complex.
“He really had to blast through there, he must have been going over 100 mph to go through it (the sign),” he said. “He had to be about six feet off the ground when he hit the sign,” said Crutcher, noting the sign had 6x6 timbers supporting it and they were smashed and shattered with pieces strewn about. Following tracks, you could see where the Jeep swerved after landing and then drove in between the dugout and a telephone pole, and after about 100 yards, the tracks go through a grassy area between a tree and landscaping grasses, when it turned hard left and hit the townhome.
Racho was awaiting help from the Red Cross and said she was staying with her sister-in-law Maria Racho. “All I know is my kids are safe. We are all safe,” she said.