Nineteen Years Since an Arlington Heights Police Officer’s Life Was Almost Lost on Friday, the 13th of October, at Palatine Rd and Windsor Dr, Arlington Heights

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On Friday October 13, 2000 Arlington Heights police and firefighter/paramedics responded to a crash involving a hearse and an Arlington Heights police officer in his squad car at Palatine Road and Windsor Drive. The police officer need to be extricated from the police vehicle by Arlington Heights and Buffalo Grove firefighter/paramedics.

Arlington Heights police officer Chuck Tiedje was severely injured when a hearse driver ran a red light at 63 mph and struck the police car in a T-bone crash on the driver’s side of the police car.

Then firefighter/paramedic and current Deputy Fire Chief Pete Ahlman was working on Tower 1 from the downtown fire station in Arlington Heights. Tower 1 is frequently called out of district on difficult extrications. Some crews “self-dispatched” upon hearing that a serous crash had occurred. Buffalo Grove firefighter/paramedics from Ambulance 25 were first on the scene, and prepared the scene for the rescue operation. When Tower 1’s crew arrived, Ahlman crawled inside the severely damaged squad car and remained inside the squad car during the extrication, administering IVs and medications while inside the squad car. He described a well-timed rescue operation among all firefighter/paramedic crews, police officers and the Flight for Life crew that saved Tiedje’s life.

The Flight for Life helicopter landed in a field north of Palatine Road and west of Windsor Drive — just south and west of Lake Arlington. The helicopter crew landed just before Tiedje was extricated from his police car. Tiedje was unconscious during the extrication, and was trapped between the intruded car door and the center console equipment that is installed in police vehicles. Police officer Chuck Tiedje was transferred by ambulance to the Flight for Life helicopter in the landing zone, and flown to Level 1 Trauma Center Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge.

Tiedje was in a coma for four months after the crash with injuries that included a fractured femur, fractures in the pelvis and hips; a head injury, and trauma to internal organs. He also suffered from complications, including infections, during his recuperation that included at least 19 surgical procedures.

Tiedje was forced to retire from the Arlington Heights Police Department because of the effect of his injuries would have on the physical nature of the job of a police officer. He was awarded $10 million dollars in a lawsuit, but received about $5 million dollars. Attorney Robert A. Clifford, founder of Clifford Law Offices, retrieved the data record from the hearse that captured the 63 mph reading and the recording of the brake application data for the hearse. The speed limit on Palatine Road was 45 mph. The data is buffered and saved in the seconds before the deployment of air bags in vehicles involved in crashes.

Aleksandr Babayev was driving the hearse for Weinstein Family Services located in Wilmette, and was accused of disobeying a red light at Windsor Drive and Palatine Road and crashing into the police car that Tiedje was driving.

Charles Tiedje ‘TJ’ served in the US Marine Corps and the United States Air Force. He currently studies and works as an actor, appearing in The Pride (2019), Gringo (2018), Death Wish (2018), and Chicago P.D. (2014).


Charles Tiedje (center holding plaque), Pete Ahlman (standing above Tiedje on fire engine), and the rest of the police officers, firefighter/paramedics, and dispatcher that completed the system that save Charles Tiedje’s life.

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