One man was taken to a local hospital for minor injuries after a van he was driving ended up in the front yard of a Belleville home and caught fire Tuesday afternoon.
Belleville Police Sgt. Mark Heffernan said authorities had no explanation for why the man took off in the van and crashed. He said an investigation was underway.
The call originated at 2:29 p.m. at Eureka Avenue and 80th Street in East St. Louis after police were assisting in a separate call.
Heffernan said a male approached a Belleville officer on patrol and said he’d been robbed in East St. Louis.
“Our officer advised the man to stay where he was. We were calling East St. Louis Police on his behalf to come out and speak to him. Shortly thereafter, our officer observed the individual jump into a white panel van that wound up crashing here,” Heffernan said.
Police said the man was speeding toward Belleville in the white van with the doors open on the van. Heffernan said a Belleville officer attempted to catch up to the van, but “never pursued the individual” and “never engaged his emergency lights.”
Police said the officer was coming up to 95th Street when the van left the roadway and ended up in the front yard of a residence at 9412 W. Main St.
“The vehicle did burst into flames at that point and the individual fled from the vehicle. He was actively trying to get into vehicles here at this location, including a marked police car. We’re still sorting out exactly what happened with him to cause this type of behavior,” Heffernan said.
The man was taken to a local hospital for minor injuries.
No charges were immediately issued, but police said the investigation was continuing. Police did not immediately know who owned the white van, the man’s identity or what caused the man’s erratic behavior.
A Belleville family was on their way to visit a friend in the hospital when they saw the accident.
“I saw the car swerving and he had the door open like he was timing when to jump out,” said 17-year-old Talmage Chandler. “Then he came around the corner on West Main Street and we saw the flames of the car and the man was rolling on the street.”
Chandler was riding in a car with his mother, Takia Binford.
Binford said, “When the cop car ran past us, and we were not too far behind him, we came up, we saw the cop, he pulled in here and the car hit (the property) and the car was on fire by the time we got around the corner. When we got at the stop sign, that’s when we saw the flames. The man jumped out, fell on the ground and ran in front of traffic and then he tried to jump inside a police car.”
The property belongs to the West End Redevelopment Group, according to the nonprofit’s executive director, Linda Havlin. Havlin said the home is under renovation and was not occupied at the time of the crash.