By Lindsey Seavert, WCCO-TV

ST. PAUL (WCCO) — A St. Paul public works employee is speaking out about what could have been a deadly crash on the job.

“I am pretty lucky and grateful for what did happen, instead of what could have happened,” said 35-year-old Thomas Haack,of Mankato.

Haack and his co-worker, 41-year-old Craig Johnson of St. Paul, have been at Regions Hospital after being severely injured a week and a half ago. Their pickup truck was parked in front of them with its emergency hazard lights on.

St. Paul Police say a woman, 91-year- old Mabel Schleif, crashed her car into the pair as they were working along the side of the road at Fairview Avenue South beneath the Interstate 94 bridge.

Haack suffered from a broken leg, shoulder and vertebrae, along with a severe concussion, but has no memory of the most painful moment. The last thing he remembers was putting tools back into his truck on Fairview Avenue.

Haack says it was a rainy morning when he and Johnson stopped under the I-94 bridge to pick up tires and garbage, and Haack says despite their green vests, emergency lights, and flashing sign, they never saw the car coming.

The elderly woman was driving a 2003 Buick Century.

“It’s going to be a long road, I know that. That’s the best I can tell ya. The only one that knows is the big guy upstairs,” said Haack.

Haack is also concerned about Johnson, who is 6-feet-7-inches tall, and took much of the impact.

“The scariest thing is his left arm. I don’t know he knows it is gone and below his elbow,” said his mother Cindy Johnson.

She worries that, with an arm amputation and the rest of his limbs broken, her son’s spirit will be broken too.

Johnson is in serious condition.

“He can’t speak yet with the tubes in his mouth,” said Cindy Johnson. “He has got a 13-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son that are very anxious to see him and talk with him. He is that type of guy that is very likable, always wants to help with whatever. Now he will be limited in what he can help people with.”

Haack hopes their suffering is a lesson for all drivers – young, old, and distracted.

“It doesn’t matter if you are young or old, or in between, you need to pay attention,” said Haack. “Take extra time, because shortchanging yourself can change someone else’s life.”

Schleif has not been cited or charged. St. Paul Police say they are waiting for blood tests at this point in their investigation.

Comments (9)
  1. Tim says:

    when Your in a car, You should be in the car. not off in some other world while Your car is hurtling down the road. Mabel was to old to be driving. Rough way to live out Your last days-knowing You wriecked peoples lives. And their lives are changed forever. pretty sucky

  2. Mike says:

    Why has Mabel Schleif not been charged? What difference does it make if she was chemically impaired when her ability to drive a car safely is the impairment! If your 91 years old, you do not belong behind the steering wheel of a car.
    I hope Mabel has assets that can be taken away to pay for the damages she has caused on others through her selfish, careless behavior.

    Schleif=German and Jewish (Ashkenazic): occupational name for a (knife) grinder, from Middle High German

  3. old people shouldnt drive says:

    you can get away with anything if your over 80

  4. Ron says:

    . Sheesh, Between drunk drivers and blue haired old people. I need to trade my SUV in on a Tank……

  5. jan says:

    maybe she is too old to drive but not all older people are bad drivers, some are very good drivers. They are not usually texting while driving either.

  6. Jeff says:

    it’s unfortunate the senior had no injuries, she’ll be back on the road before you know it

  7. young buck says:

    Honestly, I believe older people over the age of 70 should get driver’s eval every year. Most of them have noone to take them places so they try to drive, but do not have the necessary skills to drive safely.

  8. Jackie D says:

    I do believe people 70 to 80 are still good drivers. At least the majority of them are. Reflexes are slowed some. This woman may not get her license back until she takes a test. She could of been day dreaming to just like many younger people do.
    If she was talking on the phone while driving that is one no no but I see many younger people doing it, people in their 20 to 60. Comeon, I bet many of you are guilty of that.
    Hopefully the men will be compensated well so they can go on with their lives.

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