Medical issue caused McHenry Starbucks crash, police say

Wonder Lake man recounts traumatizing experience inside Starbucks

A Wonder Lake man driving a pickup truck suffered a medical issue late Thursday afternoon, resulting in the truck crashing into a McHenry Starbucks and injuring five people, McHenry police said Friday.

Five people were reported injured, two initially in critical condition, after a dark red, full-sized Dodge Ram pickup truck veered off the road about 4:40 p.m. and crashed into a Starbucks east of the intersection of West Elm Street and Oak Drive. The driver, a 53-year-old man who used to live in Lakemoor and who police would not identify, struck a white Nissan SUV in the drive-thru lane before crashing into the building at 4305 W. Elm St.

Members of the McHenry County Regional Major Crash Investigation Team determined the cause of the crash was because of an unspecified medical problem, police said.

McHenry Police Department public affairs officer Patrick Polidori said he could not disclose the nature of the driver’s medical issue that caused the crash, his identity or the identities of the five victims who were injured.

“When it comes to medical information, it is confidential,” Polidori said Friday.

There were no passengers in the pickup or SUV, he said.

The McHenry Township Fire Protection District, along with several neighboring fire departments, extracted one person from under the Dodge Ram.

Matthew Marshall, 19, of Wonder Lake, was visiting the Starbucks with his youth pastor, Tim Meister, and a youth group class when the truck crashed through the building. Marshall was showing the group a card trick when he said he began to hear loud noises that sounded like something being dropped on the kitchen floor. The sounds grew closer and louder until suddenly he heard a “bang.”  

With no signs other than loud sounds to foreshadow the crash, everyone in the Starbucks stood shocked. No one made a noise until a man began yelling for help from under the debris, Marshall said. 

“That’s when it became panic mode,” Marshall said. 

There was no time to process the moment, he said. On instinct, Marshall, Meister and a friend searched around the truck and the debris to help the trapped man, but couldn’t find any part of his body. All Marshall said he heard was the man’s voice. No opening to help the man left Marshall feeling helpless and traumatized. 

“We didn’t even know what was on him; we didn’t even see a single thing. We just heard him screaming in miserable pain. That was the worst part. I was not able to help in that moment, it really hurt,” he said. “That was definitely the most traumatizing and terrorizing part of the whole thing.” 

Four patients were taken to Northwestern Medicine McHenry Hospital, and one of those four subsequently was flown to Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville by a Flight For Life helicopter. That 21-year-old Ingleside man, who works for Starbucks, initially was listed in critical condition and then was upgraded Thursday night to fair condition.

“I’m very glad to hear the man under the debris is still alive,” Marshall said.

Polidori on Friday said the Starbucks worker was positioned in the corner of the building that was struck by the truck. That’s where customers wait inside the shop for drink order pickups and where drive-thru orders are picked up, he said. The worker was filling a drink order when the truck crashed through, he said.

“It could have been so much worse,” he said. “We got lucky. Everybody’s going to make it.”

A second Starbucks employee, a 23-year-old Carpentersville woman, was treated at Northwestern Medicine McHenry Hospital for minor injuries and by Friday morning had been upgraded from fair condition to good condition, police officials said.

A 36-year-old McHenry woman, who was seated in the white SUV in the drive-thru lane waiting for her drink order, was treated and released Thursday night for what Polidori said were minor injuries. Marshall said he also was not able to help the woman, the mother of one of his youth group students. Both the woman and truck driver had blood around their face when he saw them, he said.

“It was really hard to see a real person, someone looking like that after a terrible accident,” Marshall said. 

A fifth person was treated and released at the scene Thursday night. Polidori on Friday said he didn’t know that person’s age, gender, town of residence or information about the nature of that person’s injuries.

Conditions of the four people who remained hospitalized could not be obtained Friday afternoon. Police would not provide their names, and a Northwestern Medicine McHenry Hospital spokeswoman, Michelle Green, said hospital staff cannot provide patient conditions without their names.

The Wonder Lake man driving the Dodge Ram will not be ticketed or charged, Polidori said, because of the nature of the crash.

McHenry resident Zuleima Arellano, 26, who is the manager of the IHOP restaurant across the street from Starbucks, said Friday that she was outside the restaurant Thursday night when the truck “slammed into the Starbucks.”

It was scary, you could just hear people screaming,” Arellano said. “You just felt helpless. It was very sad and scary. There were people running around trying to help.”

She said she was assisting an intoxicated customer outside so he wouldn’t cross into the street when she saw the pickup crash. It “was swerving, and then it slammed.” She said she didn’t see anyone who was hurt.

The Starbucks only recently opened within the past two months, Polidori said.

“They just finished building,” Polidori said. “I don’t think [the crash] is related to the added traffic there.”

The pickup truck’s hazard lights were blinking Thursday night as it jutted out of the gaping maw left in the building, which is located in a heavily traveled corridor.

• Staff reporter Katie Smith contributed to this report.

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