You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Ukrainian truck driver living in Naperville in critical condition after being hit by semi during winter storm

Chicago Tribune logo Chicago Tribune 1/8/2023 Suzanne Baker, Naperville Sun, Ill.

Jan. 7—Crowdfunding as of Friday had raised more than $53,000 to help a 50-year-old Ukrainian native living in Naperville after he was struck by a semitractor-trailer during the Dec. 22 winter storm.

Illia Shemchuk, 50, remains in critical condition in a Libertyville hospital Friday with multiple internal injuries and fractures throughout his body, according to his daughter, Anastasiia Garza,of Naperville.

Her father was returning to Bartlett to unload his cargo when his vehicle became involved in a fender-bender on Interstate 94 near Gurnee, Garza said.

Illinois State Police said Shemchuk pulled his semitractor-trailer over on the left shoulder at milepost 9.25 on eastbound I-94, waiting to file a report on the crash his vehicle had with a Mercedes-Benz SUV.

Garza said Shemchuk called her on his cellphone at 2:21 p.m. to say neither he nor the driver of the Mercedes were injured and to ask if her husband, Daniel Garza, a 19-year resident of Naperville, could come to assist with answering questions because he is not completely fluent in English.

But tragedy would strike before police or the son-in-law arrived.

State Police said at 2:24 p.m. another semitractor-trailer in the farthest left lane moved into the left shoulder, sideswiping the Mercedes and the parked trailer before striking Shemchuk, who was walking along the passenger side of his vehicle.

The pavement was completely covered with snow at the time and roadway markings were not visible, police said.

Shemchuk and the other semi's driver were transported to an area hospital.

Garza knew nothing of what happened until her husband, who drove 2.5 hours through blizzard conditions, spoke with officers.

Shemchuk was already in surgery at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville when his family finally arrived.

"I think the first surgery was going on for seven or eight hours," Garza said. "They saved him that day at that hospital."

Her father has lived with her since he arrived in the U.S. in May 2018, she said. He was able to secure a job in the trucking industry because he had more than 30 years of experience.

Garza came to the United States as an exchange student and fell in love with an American, Daniel Garza. She's been in Naperville the last six years.

When the war broke out in her native Ukraine last February, the Garzas and Shemchuk worked to bring her mother — Shemchuk's wife — and her maternal grandmother to the U.S. They arrived in August.

Garza said she set up the GoFundMe account under the title "Ukrainian truck driver Illia was seriously injured" to help the family cover the cost of surgeries, rehabilitation and personal expenses.

It's been a rough couple of weeks financially because her father was the family's breadwinner, she said.

Her husband is unemployed and has been looking for a new job, Garza said, and she's been on maternity leave since her son was born Nov. 19.

"We are in a big pickle," she said.

And now bills are starting to arrive, one of which was for $65,000, she said.

While her father has good insurance, she's not sure how much will be covered, especially with additional surgeries and a long recovery with rehabilitation on the horizon, she said.

One of his legs had to be amputated so he'll also need a prosthetic, she said.

"That's our best-case scenario," Garza said. "We're taking baby steps."

The worst, she said, is returning his remains to his homeland in Ukraine.

"We are all praying over him" so that won't happen, Garza said.

(c)2023 the Naperville Sun (Naperville, Ill.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


More from Chicago Tribune

Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon