Police to I-74 motorists: 'It's absolutely safe'

Police to I-74 motorists: 'It's absolutely safe'

CHAMPAIGN — Reports of vehicles being damaged along local stretches of Interstate 74 are continuing to pour in to state police.

There have been so many, in fact, that police are still trying to determine exactly how many vehicles were hit in shooting incidents and how many were damaged by debris on the road or rocks or other items falling out of trucks, according to Capt. Louis Kink, commander of Illinois State Police District 10, which is based in Pesotum.

"I think people are getting so scared right now that they're calling in with everything, which is good, because I'd rather have more information than not enough," Kink said.

It's been a week since a 3-year-old Monticello boy was injured by shards of glass after a window on the minivan he was riding in was shattered on I-74 between the Neil Street and Prospect Avenue exits. After that incident, state police said they've had numerous reports in the past month about windows being shattered on moving vehicles on I-74 between Champaign and Ogden. And over the past week, many more drivers in the area have reported similar incidents happening to them on I-74.

Kink said there's just not enough evidence yet to indicate whether one person or more than one person may be behind the incidents, and if a weapon is being used, what kind.

"We just don't know," he said.

What he can say is that there is currently an increased police presence on much of this heavily traveled section of I-74 because of construction underway there.

To drivers who are worried about driving on I-74 because of the incidents, Kink said, "It's absolutely safe."

But he also cautioned drivers on this part of the interstate to pay attention, keep their eyes open and report anything suspicious to police sooner rather than later.

For drivers who believe their vehicles have been hit, Kink advised first checking to make sure everyone in the vehicle is OK, then exiting as soon as they can to call District 10 state police to report it.

Some drivers with damaged vehicles haven't called to make a report until later, he said, but the sooner police are notified, the better chance they have of catching the person or people responsible.

Meanwhile, some drivers said they're going to continue to avoid this stretch of I-74 if they can, at least for now.

Kim Velliquette of rural Armstrong was accustomed to hopping on I-74 two or three times a week to run errands in Champaign, but these days, she's taking a detour — going through Royal or on down to Ogden to catch U.S. 150, she said.

"Between (the incidents) and accidents and all of the construction, it's almost like the interstate between St. Joe and Urbana has become the Bermuda Triangle," Velliquette said as she filled her truck with gas Wednesday at the Village Pantry in Ogden.

Brandon Carnine, lead maintenance worker at the Pilot Flying J Travel Center in Oakwood, said if he sees people with out-of-state license plates he'll warn them if they're heading west and suggest they take U.S. 150.

"My brother lives in Champaign. When he drives over to my mother's, he takes 150 because he has a child," Carnine said. "It's slower, but he doesn't want to take a chance that he'll get hit or his son will get hurt."

Staff writer Noelle McGee contributed to this report.

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