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.