Driver allegedly on phone when she hit Rockdale squad car
By Brian Stanley firstname.lastname@example.org February 16, 2012 6:54PM
A Rockdale officer's squad car was hit. | Submitted photo
Updated: March 20, 2012 8:14AM
ROCKDALE — Police say a driver was using a cell phone when she ran a red light and struck a squad car Monday.
The collision happened around 12:55 p.m. at Meadow and Larkin Avenues.
Lt. Don Pezzuto was driving eastbound on Meadow when he crossed through the intersection and was struck by a northbound green 1998 Oldsmobile Aurora driven by Mary F. Lorent, 64, of Tinley Park, Chief Robert Dykstra said.
“An independent witness told investigators he could see the driver talking on her cell phone before, during and until shortly after the crash,” Dykstra said.
The Oldsmobile hit the squad car’s front, passenger side and slid into another car stopped at the intersection, causing minor damage.
An off-duty Rockdale firefighter and Cook County sheriff’s deputy were in the area and alerted police and ambulances.
“It is a very scary call to hear your lieutenant is unconscious in a crash,” Dykstra said.
Pezzuto was reportedly unresponsive but breathing when he was transported to Provena Saint Joseph Medical Center. He had been wearing a seat belt, and the vehicle’s air bag deployed.
Lorent initially declined medical treatment, but later complained of soreness and was hospitalized.
Because the crash involved a Rockdale squad car, the Will County Sheriff’s police investigated the accident.
“At the scene, the other driver claimed the officer was flying through the intersection,” Dykstra said.
But sheriff’s police reviewed footage from the camera on Pezzuto’s dashboard, which reportedly shows his vehicle stop for 90 seconds at the red light and begin going through about two seconds after it turns green.
Lorent was ticketed for disregarding a traffic control device and failing to reduce speed to avoid an accident.
“When interviewed at the hospital, she admitted having been on her cell phone shortly before the accident, but said she had just hung up,” Dykstra said.
Pezzuto has been released from the hospital after suffering “bumps and bruises” and is expected to return to duty.