‘Family man’ from Dolton killed in wrong-way crash
By STEVE METSCH and KIM JANSSEN email@example.com April 30, 2012 12:38PM
Illinois State Police investigate the scene of a fatal wrong-way accident in the northbound lanes of Interstate 94 near 122nd Street in Chicago, Illinois, Monday, April 30, 2012. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 2, 2012 8:08AM
A Dolton man whose family said he missed only one day of work in 26 years was killed Monday morning while on his way to his job, his car crushed in a wrong-way crash on the Bishop Ford Freeway, state police said.
Alcohol appears to have been a factor in the crash, State Police Master Sgt. Jason LoCoco said.
Ronnie Head, 54, of the 15700 block of South Dobson Avenue, was pronounced dead at 5:34 a.m. Monday at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, the Cook County medical examiner’s office said.
LoCoco said the crash was in the northbound lanes of Interstate 94 near 122nd Street at 4:30 a.m.
Mr. Head, a father of two who worked as a press operator for the Chicago Tribune, was driving north when his 2003 Honda Accord was hit by a 1998 Chevrolet Malibu heading south in the northbound lanes, LoCoco said.
It’s not known where the other car’s driver — a 24-year-old Chicago man who remained in critical condition at Christ Medical Center later Monday — entered the freeway, LoCoco said.
The northbound lanes were closed for about five hours because of the accident, he said.
After the initial crash, Head’s car was pushed into a truck driven by a 28-year-old Tennessee man, LoCoco said. That man was not injured, LoCoco said.
Sergene’ Head, 28, said the only day of work her father missed in 26 years “was due to the blizzard last year. My mother had to beg him to stay home,” she said.
She called her father “a fun-loving dad and a family man.
“He loved sports and the Bulls. We always had a good time watching the games together as a family,” Head said.
Mr. Head grew up in Chicago and graduated from Parker High School.
“My father didn’t drink or party. He was a homebody who liked to be by his family. We are still in shock,” Head said.
She also starts her job early and was heading downtown early Monday when she heard about the crash on the radio.
“I didn’t think anything of it, and was glad I didn’t take that way to work. My mom called to check on me and said, ‘Let me call your father.’ The next time I heard from my mother, she asked me, ‘Do you remember that accident this morning?’ ” Head said. “We are still in shock.”
Arrangements are pending.
Nobody had been charged in Head’s death as of Monday evening.
The alleged drunk driver’s mother said he had briefly returned from a friend’s house to his home in Chicago’s Woodlawn community about 4 a.m. He used his mother’s phone to call his own cell phone, which he’d lost, and discovered he’d left it at his friend’s home, she said.
“He was on his way over there to get his phone back,” she said. “I don’t know if he’d been drinking.”
It was the second fatal accident on Interstate 94 in 90 minutes. In the first crash, Darius L. Raheem, 23, was driving north when he left the road and struck a tree near 152nd Street at 3:07 a.m., Illinois State Police Trooper Ivan Bukaczyk said. He was dead on the scene, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
An autopsy found he died of multiple injuries from the crash and ruled his death an accident, according to the medical examiner’s office.
In an unrelated incident, there was a second wrong-way driver in the same area about 25 minutes after the fatal accident involving Head. That driver was stopped by state police before any accidents took place, LoCoco said.
The crash that killed Head was the latest in a series of recent high-profile wrong-way collisions on Chicago-area highways and occurred as both the National Transportation Safety Board and the Illinois Department of Transportation are examining how to tackle wrong-way driving.
Though similar accidents have been widely reported this year, there’s “no evidence of any uptick,” according to IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell. Over the last six years there have been 217 wrong-way driving incidents reported at a “steady” rate across the state, Tridgell said.
Like Monday morning’s accident, the incidents typically occur in the city late at night and involve alcohol, Tridgell said.
Every highway off-ramp in the state has signs warning motorists not to enter, but a joint IDOT-Southern Illinois University study due to be released this summer is examining whether additional signage or technology used to detect wrong-way drivers could help, he said.
Northwestern University Center for Public Safety division manager Roy Lucke said that it was too soon to say whether similar systems installed in Texas and other states are effective.
“If someone is too drunk to see a ‘no entry sign,’ will extra red lights make any difference?” he said.
Lucke said he hadn’t seen evidence of an increase in wrong-way driving, but said he has noticed an “increase in publicity due to the 24-hour news cycle.”