Web Exclusive: The man behind the wheel
June 17, 2009 (WLS) -- Before that April morning, Metamora, Michigan was known for just two things: its hot air balloon festival and the annual fox hunt.
That would change a few hours after Don Wells left for work.
When the 64-year old truck driver climbed behind the wheel of his tractor-trailer, he was about to become "the Metamora, Michigan man" who plowed into a Chicago rapid transit station.
Of course, when Wells left that Friday, his wife Darlene had no inkling of the phone call that was a few hours off; a call that would change her life. She figured he'd be back to their home soon enough, because they had plans a few days later.
She couldn't have been more wrong.
The startling call from her husband's truck company supervisor that evening told of an accident in Chicago. Darlene Wells says she doesn't remember many details because the voice on the other end of the line didn't offer many.
She didn't know whether he had been hurt, where he was or how to contact him.
It took 48 hours just to locate her husband, she recalls. The treatment that Wells allegedly received while in police custody for two days is the focus of a federal lawsuit the family has filed against the Chicago Police Department and nearly a dozen named officers.
Darlene Wells spent the weeks after the Chinatown accident shuttling to Chicago and says she watched her husband's condition deteriorate.
He never did return home, dying in June of last year.
The interview with Darlene and her daughter that the I-Team conducted in their home east of Flint, Michigan, is a story of frustration and determination. It offers an intimate picture of "the man behind the wheel" that April day on the Dan Ryan Expressway. It also provides a glimpse of what led to the horrible accident and of the events that followed...events that are now the subject of several lawsuits.
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