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Driver dead in car-van accident in Reading

Published On: Nov 29 2012 08:06:39 AM CST
Updated On: Nov 30 2012 05:41:09 AM CST

A 53-year-old man talking on a cell phone was killed when he drove his car through a red light and into the path of a van in Reading on Thursday, officials said.

READING, Pa. -

A 53-year-old man was killed in a wild, fiery crash that tore through a neighborhood in northwest Reading, PA.

The driver was speeding when he ran a red light and was hit by a van around 8 a.m. Thursday at Schuylkill Avenue and West Buttonwood Street, police said. 

Smoke and flames poured out of the tan Mercedes after it careened out of control and took down everything in its path.

"They're always going through this red light here, always," said Dorothy Ortiz, a city crossing guard who witnessed the accident.

Jose DeJesus Garcia, of Reading, reportedly was on the phone with his stepbrother, driving at a high rate of speed. He was heading south on Schuylkill Avenue when he ran the light, said police.

A white van was driving west on West Buttonwood Street when the vehicles collided. The van T-boned Garcia's Mercedes.

"The van spun around and hit the building," said Ortiz.

The Mercedes plowed through a traffic light standard, knocked over an overhead light and sent a mailbox some 80 feet into the air as it hit multiple cars.

"The car started burning, and everybody started getting real paranoid, and that's when they moved him," said Susan Santiago, who heard the crash.

Santiago was the first to call 911 before Garcia died on the street.

"He looked towards me, like he moved his head and looked at me," said Santiago.

Witnesses are local residents who witnessed the dramatic crash and were left shaken.

"Just think, I could have been out there crossing a child to go to school at that time," said Ortiz.

Garcia suffered blunt force trauma to his head, neck and chest. His death has been ruled an accident, said the Berks County coroner.

The driver of the van was taken to a hospital, but officials had no information about his condition.