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'Grace of God' Saved Oswego Man Whose Home Was Struck by Truck

Oct 06, 2015 04:06PM ● By Steven Jack

The outside of the bedroom where Donald Banks slept at about 8 a.m. Saturday morning was ripped away by a truck drove off Route 71. (Photo courtesy of Rick Jacobsen)

Donald Banks was sound asleep in his bed at about 8 a.m. Saturday morning when one of his wife’s worst fears came crashing into their home. 

A 20-foot box truck traveling westbound along Route 71 near Paradise Parkway jumped the curb, careened out of control and clipped the Banks’ West End Court home, running into the very bedroom where Banks was sleeping. As the truck continued, barreling through the family’s backyard deck and swimming pool, debris from the impact flew across the bedroom striking Banks in the face and neck. 

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“I’m here by a stroke of luck and the grace of God,” Banks said Tuesday afternoon. “My wife was in the kitchen getting ready to make some coffee, and all of sudden here comes this huge crash into our home. … That truck was probably 5 or 6 feet from hitting the bed where I slept.”

Banks and the truck’s driver, William Zurakov, 58, of Lakewood, Il, were both hospitalized with neither suffering serious injuries. Zurakov was later cited for improper lane usage, according to Oswego Police.

Given that the accident occurred only three days after IDOT opened the two permanent westbound lanes of the widened Route 71, it has raised questions regarding the safety of homeowners in the construction zone living near the road. Joe Wick, IDOT’s acting project implementation engineer, met with the Banks family Tuesday to discuss temporary safety measures until a permanent solution can be determined. 

“We’re evaluating right now to see what measures can be put in place that won’t be a hinderance to the motoring public, but will provide protection to the homeowner,” Wick said.

Banks said Wick discussed constructing a temporary earthen berm that would be built up between the road and the Banks’ yard, which sits just 20 feet from the pavement. Banks said he actually was  hoping for something that would stop errant vehicles in their tracks. 

“I question how much that’s going to protect us. We hope they’ll put up some temporary concrete barriers like you see in the middle of the road during a construction project,” Banks said. “… Something like this has been my wife’s worst fear more than mine, and now I’m just as fearful as she is. I don’t think I want to sleep in that bedroom again … not with semis coming through here all night.”

Permanent construction plans for the north side of Route 71 do show a sound wall in the area from just west of First Place Rental all the way to Douglas Street. Banks said he’s happy at the prospect of the wall, but it won’t be installed until next year and he knows sound walls aren't meant to act as safety barriers.

“The only way we’ll feel totally safe is if they decide to reinforce that wall somehow,” he said. 

Current IDOT drawings show a six-inch barrier curb, sidewalk and the sound wall between Route 71 and the Banks home. Wick said IDOT hasn’t made any decisions regarding the wall or other permanent safety measures for the area.

“We are constantly monitoring the project as a whole, including safety measures,” Wick said.

Meanwhile, the Banks were busy Tuesday overseeing crews that were helping to repair the damage. Whether they’ll stay in the home where they’ve lived since 2003 remains to be seen.

“Even when we do fix it up, we’re concerned if we would ever be able to sell it.” Banks said. “I don’t think we want that pool back to where it was. We’ve got grandkids, and I wouldn’t want them swimming there.”