Tree Falls on Van, Nearly Kills Driver

Man pronounced dead at hospital

By Natalie Martinez and Anthony Ponce
|  Thursday, Apr 8, 2010  |  Updated 2:26 PM CDT
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Witness: "He Was Face Down on the Steering Wheel"

A witness to a tragic accident, in which a rotten tree fell on a van and severely injured the driver, speaks about the gruesome scene.
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A 33-year-old driver is in critical condition this morning after a tree fell on his van on the Northwest Side, according to police.

Jerzy Szczepanek appeared to be dead when he arrived at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge but doctors were able to revive him.

The rotted tree fell while the van while it was stopped at a traffic light at 3600 North Cumberland Avenue, News Affairs Officer John Mirabelli said. The branch that hit him measured nearly a foot in diameter, onlookers said.

Witnesses on the scene said the man's head was pinned between the tree and the steering wheel of the "John's and Les Flooring" van he was driving. 

"The man was face down on the steering wheel," said Cory Lang, who saw the tree go down and called 911. "He was moving a little bit."

Several motorists initially tried to lift the tree off the van but were unsuccessful. After emergency crews arrived it took them 15 minutes to free him from the van.

Officials don't know what caused the tree to fall, but it was not in good condition.

Szczepanek remains in critical condition. His neighbor says he has two young children.

"It'd be very sad. He's a very nice guy," said Joanne Suriano. "I hope he pulls through and does ok."

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