Two Die As Truck Crashes Into Northwest Indiana Restaurant

A man apparently having a heart attack crashed his truck through the wall of a northwest Indiana restaurant, killing an Illinois diner and injuring nine other people, police said.


ST. JOHN, Ind. (AP) -- A man apparently having a heart attack crashed his truck through the wall of a northwest Indiana restaurant, killing an Illinois diner and injuring nine other people, police said.

Investigators said David Pence, 70, of Munster, swerved his GMC Sierra into oncoming traffic on U.S. 41 on Sunday, hit two northbound cars and crossed the road into a grassy ditch.

Witnesses said the truck then went airborne, crossed an access road and struck the dining room wall of Schoop's Hamburgers in this town about 10 miles southwest of Gary.

Pence, who was alone in the truck, was pronounced dead at St. Margaret Mercy Hospital in nearby Dyer. An autopsy on Pence's body was expected Monday, according to the Lake County Coroner's office.

Clarence Duessing, 71, of South Holland, Ill., who was seated in a booth, was struck and killed, and his wife suffered a broken arm, St. John Police Chief Fred Frego said.

The truck slammed through the north side of the building, landing 15 to 20 feet inside the dining room, Frego said.

``It looked like a bomb went off inside there. Everything was torn apart,'' said Capt. Jim Funk, spokesman for the St. John Fire Department.

One of the injured diners was hospitalized in critical condition with head trauma, police said. None of the restaurant employees, mostly teenagers, or the drivers of the two cars Pence hit on U.S. 41 were among the injured.

Other motorists who arrived at the restaurant within minutes of the crash helped rescue those inside, police said.

``They were pulling people out of the building. Those teenage kids were awesome. They were handing their cell phones to people and bringing them water,'' Rose Marsee, a nurse who was headed south on U.S. 41, told the Post-Tribune of Merrillville.

Witnesses estimated the car was going about 30 mph when it struck the diner. They said there were no cars in the parking lot to slow the truck before it hit the wall.

Traffic on U.S. 41 was diverted for more than an hour after the crash.