(MCT) — ALTON — A Godfrey man died Tuesday when he was pinned between his car door and the interior of the sedan, which apparently had rolled down a relative's driveway and up against a wooden privacy fence.
Madison County Coroner Stephen P. Nonn announced Tuesday night that the victim had been identified as Richard J. Gonzales, 78, of the first block of Eden Hall Drive in Godfrey. Gonzales was a longtime volunteer with the Southwestern Illinois Chapter of the American Red Cross.
Someone called 911 at 2:35 p.m. to report that a man was in an accident and trapped in his vehicle at a home in the 3400 block of Lincoln Street, west of Milton Road in Alton. The home actually was that of the victim's niece, Nancy Gonzales, who was not home when the accident occurred.
Family members told authorities that Gonzales visited his relatives each holiday to bring them greeting cards and gifts, and he was delivering Valentine's Day cards to his niece's home when the tragedy occurred.
Chief Bernie Sebold of the Alton Fire Department said that when firefighters arrived at the home, Alton police and paramedics from Alton Memorial Ambulance Service already were at the scene.
"(Gonzales) was pinned between the car door and door jamb," Sebold said. "He was partly in the car and partly on the ground. His upper torso was against the driver's-side door, and the car was against the fence. We don't know if he was entering or exiting the car."
Sebold said Gonzales was not working on the car and apparently was alone at the time of the accident.
"He was dragged down the driveway; he was holding onto the vehicle when it hit the fence," Sebold said, by appearances, pinning and crushing the victim.
The driveway is at the side of the house.
Sebold said the approximately 6-foot-high wooden privacy fence along the driveway belongs to the neighbor.
Paramedics from the Fire Department and ambulance service removed Gonzales from the car and treated him at the scene. The ambulance took him to Alton Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Nonn said the investigation showed Gonzales apparently got out of the car prematurely without putting it into park; when the car began rolling, he attempted to regain access to the vehicle to bring it under control.
Nonn said Gonzales died as the result of blunt chest trauma and traumatic asphyxiation. Routine toxicology testing will be performed for the presence of alcohol and drugs in his system.
The Alton Police Department also is investigating the incident.
Gonzales had been active as a disaster volunteer with the Red Cross and had deployed to Washington, D.C., following the terrorist attack on the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
Funeral arrangements are pending under the direction of Gent Funeral Home of Alton.