SCRIPT: Those Were Our Children 2/99

I ran to the van, began to beat on the windows, and my hands were already burned. So I began to hit with my elbows and kick with my feet. It was futile, and I knew it. And it had been clouded in there so I didn't see in, but I knew what had happened. I knew that the children had died.

JANET WILLIS

I fell on my knees, and I just started saying, "No, no," as though God would just stop it and make it all go away.

BRIAN ROSS

A sixth child, Benny, the oldest, got out of the van, badly burned.

JANET WILLIS

His hair was gone, and they were taking his clothes off because they were smoldering, and he was saying, "My feet are hot," and they couldn't get his shoes off.

REVEREND SCOTT WILLIS

He asked about the others. He said, "How are the others?" I couldn't answer. And somebody said, "They're all right."

JANET WILLIS

Then he said, "Dad, tell me a joke." And that sounds goofy, but that's our family.

BRIAN ROSS

Benny died in the hospital that night.

REVEREND SCOTT WILLIS

I must tell you that we hurt in sorrow as you parents would for your children. The depth of pain is indescribable. The hardest part of all was visiting Benny in intensive care knowing he was alive, but that he would not make it. Around midnight, his big brother and hero, Toby, was with Ben when he died. Toby came back and said to me, "Benny's in heaven."

BRIAN ROSS

In the investigation that followed, Wisconsin police determined there was no basis to file any criminal charges. When they tracked down the truck driver, this man, Ricardo Guzman, a resident alien from Mexico, he claimed his CB radio wasn't working and he never realized the piece was coming loose.

LARRY PETOSKEY

If this gentleman couldn't see that, he had to be blind or a very unqualified driver.

BRIAN ROSS

In fact, several questions have now been raised about how qualified Guzman was to drive a big truck. Police in Wisconsin made special note of the fact that Guzman was not fluent in English and needed a translator, even though federal law requires truck drivers to read and speak English sufficiently to respond to official inquiries.

As well, Guzman had been involved in six other accidents in the just two years since he had received his truck driver's license at a state licensing office in Illinois.

TERRY BRUNER

Thousands of people who should not be driving 18-wheel trucks on our highways got licenses in Illinois.

BRIAN ROSS

It was no surprise to Terry Bruner that a driver like Guzman could get his truck driver's license in Illinois. Bruner is the executive director of the Chicago Better Government Association, a civic watchdog group, which had tracked a steady stream of non-English speaking applicants brought to state licensing offices by certain truck driving schools and trucking companies.

TERRY BRUNER

They couldn't speak English. They were all brought in, in groups. They were run right through the process.

BRIAN ROSS

And behind it all, according to a lawsuit Bruner's group has now filed against George Ryan, were hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions to Ryan campaigns from truck companies and truck driving schools which, Bruner says, wanted to make sure their people passed. Something Bruner says Ryan knew or should have known.

TERRY BRUNER

Mr. Ryan was running for governor, and he needed the money.

BRIAN ROSS

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