When the SUV plowed into Terry Tigner’s home just a few miles east of Norwalk earlier this month, he didn’t know where he was when the loud “bang” woke him. But he was alert enough to grab a few clothes and his 9 mm handgun.
“I come out prepared for anything — I was protecting myself. As far as I know, I’m legal to protect myself,” Tigner said a week after the incident.
What he found was an SUV wedged into his garage, just a few feet from his bedroom.
“At this point, it’s very possibly structurally holding the garage up,” Tigner said. “I’m not going to let anybody take that car out of there until I have something documented that they’re responsible, because the only thing holding the garage up is this little — a couple of two-by-fours,” he said, gesturing to what was left of a load-bearing wall.
Tigner calls the situation a “bad deal,” but it gets worse.
This is the third time in two years a car has run through the T-intersection of County Highway R63 and G14 and rammed into his house. Six other vehicles have blown through the intersection but stopped short of crashing into his house, coming to rest in his front yard.
Tigner estimates he’s spent more than $10,000 recovering from the incidents on top of the drivers’ insurance payouts.
“It’s not cheap and this time is the worst,” he says.
Wearing a faded grey Tigner University T-shirt, Tigner squints out at the cars rushing past on Highway R63 and remembers the night the SUV went airborn.
He hasn’t heard from whoever was driving the vehicle with Illinois license plates in more than a week. But, he said, the driver walked away from the incident and was driven to a hospital in an ambulance.
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“He’s supposedly here, working for the (State) Fair,” Tigner said.
The county’s engineering department is aware of the intersection, Tigner said, and has made some changes over the years, including lowering the speed limit in the area and adding some flags to the intersection’s stop signs.
The large yellow sign with double arrows telling drivers they must turn left or right at the intersection was elevated to make it more visible after the last car smashed into Tigner’s house. That sign was ripped out of the ground, crumpled and dragged almost into the house in the most recent accident.
“The last accident before this took out the garage door completely,” Tigner said. “Things never get put back as good as they were. I’m just getting — I’m getting pissed, to be honest with you.”
That new garage door — so new, not even a cobweb could be found clinging to its frame— will have to be replaced, along with the garage’s walls, windows and, possibly, roof.
Tigner is left feeling pretty disgusted with the work he has to put into estimating the cost of the damages.
“They are wanting to know what it cost for me to put up the garage door, blah, blah, blah, blah. Now, I have to search for that and call insurance companies to ask that — I’m obligated to do all of this — what did I do wrong? What’d I do wrong?” Tigner asked.
Less than a half-mile north, Amanda Prohaska has lived at another T-intersection on the highway for six years. She said a car has never run through the intersection onto her property. However, she thinks that’s because the highway intersects with a gravel road in front of her home.
“The gravel road, I think, makes people slow down,” she said. “But, thankfully, we’ve had no accidents. We’ve never seen anything. But it’s definitely run through my mind that that could be really frightening. Really frightening.”
And a couple of miles south of Tigner’s house is a four-way intersection between R63 and G24. That intersection has four stop signs and a blinking red light suspended overhead.
Tigner had spoken with the county engineering department again this week about the most recent accident. He expects them to come look over the situation.
“I’m going to ask if they will put up some type of a barricade here that has a big eight-by-eight post that is simply a guard rail,” Tigner said. “Will they do that? I honestly don’t know. Other than that, I really don’t have any ideas what to do.”
No one with the department could be reached for comment. Calls and emails to Warren County Supervisor Aaron DeKock, who represents Tigner, went unanswered.
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The Norwalk Police Department reported that Tigner’s home is served by the Northern Warren Fire District, a volunteer fire department. Calls there went unanswered, too.
Tigner said he’s spent his life working in construction and makes his living with his hands and his tools. The latest driver’s insurance company wants him to estimate the value of his tools that are buried underneath the SUV in the rubble.
“I have to guesstimate all of my personal tools in there. I got to replace them. They won’t give me a new price. Where do I find a drill that’s five years old that works perfectly for the money they give me? Have I paid extra money to replace my tools over the year like this? Absolutely. Absolutely,” he said.
He turns to scan the rubble.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m not upset with you. I’m upset with them.”
Teresa Kay Albertson covers Des Moines’ southern suburbs for the Register and the Indianola Record-Herald. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 515-419-6098.