Local news stories affecting the auto body industry in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin
Auto repair firm Nagy’s Collision Specialists has opened its first power sports facility. Formerly operated as B&L Motorsports in Wadsworth, OH, Nagy's Power Sports will service and repair motorcycles, ATVs, UTVs, snowmobiles, and golf carts. Former B&L owner Bob Gerberich, who has 56 years in the industry, will stay on board to assist with the shop, while Fred Seckel will use his more than 30 years of power sports industry experience to manage the location.
With the huge number of crashes this winter, auto repair shops in Minnesota are still swamped with weeks-long backlogs. Many repair shops are telling customers they will have to wait four to six weeks before they can even start working on their car or truck. Marwan Kawas is a manager at Heppner’s Auto Body, which has six locations in the east metro area. “This is my 15th year doing this, and this is the worst winter I’ve seen,” Kawas said. He says business is up about 30 percent. “Drivers don’t keep their proper distances when they’re on the roads. Sometimes it’s just inevitable, you know, especially with black ice.”
Kawas says people are often stunned by the cost of repairs. “Sometimes they think it’s just a bumper,” he said. “But when you factor in the price of the part, the paint, the labor, sometimes the little hidden damage, the broken clips…it adds up. You know, even just a bumper can be a $1,000–$1,500 repair. This one is more, actually, because it buckled on the hood, and there’s probably some inner damage as well, that’s probably a good $3,000–4,000 repair,” Kawas said, adding, “If your vehicle is severely damaged, you will likely be able to get help sooner than later. But if you can still drive your car, expect a long wait.” How long? “Weeks out, definitely,” he said. “And you’ll find it’s true across the metro area…we all have the same problem.”
Winter car crashes were up an average 61 percent in Northwest Ottawa County, MI, compared to last season, according to data analysis by the Grand Haven Tribune.
It was one of the best winters ever at Fritz Auto Body in Grand Haven, MI, with a 30 percent increase in business, co-owner Dave Fritz said.
But it wasn’t just the snow that led to dents and dings—the cold left many car owners cracking up.
“What we encountered this year, with the temperature being so much colder and the new cars having urethane bumpers, people would hit the snow banks and the bumpers would crack,” Fritz said. “We definitely saw an increase in the amount of claims on bumpers because of the cold.”
While new bumpers are designed to flex, bitter cold temperatures make them brittle and prone to cracks.
Fritz praised local road crews for keeping the streets in good condition despite the barrage of blizzards, but he noted the high snow banks led to many crashes due to poor visibility when people were pulling out of parking lots or driveways.
“We had a lot of human error because the conditions we had were exceedingly more difficult than they have been in the past,” he said. “It wasn’t just the inexperienced drivers. A lot of experienced drivers got into accidents too.”
Deeper snow also caused more damage when people went off the road, according to Fritz. Damages varied from $300 to $10,000.
Fritz noticed pricier damages occurred when people probably shouldn’t have been on the roads.
“The whiteout days, those are the days that create the high-ticket accidents,” Fritz said. “When there’s a warning to get off the road, there’s a reason for that. Most of the cars that were out in a blizzard have substantially higher damage numbers.”
The City of Ste. Genevieve Board of Aldermen meeting took an unexpected turn March 13, 2014, when George Wehner, whose special-use permit application for an auto body and repair shop and auto sales business at was up for consideration, issued what could be taken as a threat to city officials.
“You guys need to remember what [Charles Lee] ‘Cookie’ Thornton [did] to Kirkwood City Hall,” Wehner said. In 2008, Thornton gunned down several city officials at Kirkwood City Hall before being shot and killed.
After the meeting, police chief Eric Bennett said Wehner’s comment was noted. He said the department has been on alert since the 2008 Kirkwood shooting for any situations that have the potential to escalate and veer into dangerous territory.
In a telephone message left March 15, 2014, on a voice recorder at the Ste. Genevieve Herald office, Wehner apologized for the Thornton comment. “I was under a lot of stress at the time, and in no way did I mean it as a threat,” Wehner said.
City officials said that Wehner had not (yet) issued an apology to the city at press time.
The Kosciusko County Coroner’s Office has confirmed the identity of the second person who died in a fatal fire at Medina’s Body Repair in Milford, IN, on February 13, 2014.
Investigators say the fire was accidental, and traced the source of the fire to faulty wiring for a ceiling light.
Analu Nunez died from smoke inhalation, according to Kosciusko County coroner Michael Wilson.
Nunez’s fiancé and shop owner Jose Medina has been confirmed as being the other person who died in the fire. Medical examiners determined that he died from smoke inhalation.
The call originally came in around 7:22 a.m. when someone leaving work down the street saw smoke and flames and called 911. When crews arrived at the scene, they saw heavy smoke coming from the front of the body shop. After surveying the scene, crews saw the roof was sagging and the front wall was pushing out, so they fought the fire from the outside.
A large part of a Madisonville, KY, body shop business went up in flames late the night of March 25, 2014. Madisonville fire crews responded just before 10:00 p.m. to reports of a large fire at Hawkins Auto Body Shop at 77 Bassett Avenue, which was showing flames from outside the structure. According to the fire department's report, a 360 survey was performed by an officer who determined that the heaviest fire was located within the structure near the entry door and was moving into the attic area. A fire crew was directed to force entry through the door. Another crew entered the structure and found fire in the restroom area located just inside the entry door. As fire extended into the attic and vented the roof, all interior crews were evacuated. Fire crews were able to re-enter the structure with hand lines to extinguish hot spots located in the attic area. An extensive overhaul of the fire area was performed to prevent a rekindle. Fire units determined that the origin of the fire was in the restroom area. Property owner, Dale Hawkins, reported that a trash can was located in the area were Madisonville Fire Department determined the fire had possibly started. The fire remains under investigation.
Jerry Schoenecker and his wife Mary started Jerry’s Auto Body in Oak Park Heights, MN, in April 1974. The calendar from the first month of business still hangs on the wall. Although Jerry Sr. passed away, the shop has remained family-owned, and brothers Jerry, Joe, and John still work there, as well as Jerry Jr.’s stepson Mike DeCorse. The shop has about 10 full-time employees, and Jerry Jr. says half have been with the shop 30 years or more. “We’re fixing people’s grandkids’ cars now,” Jerry Jr. said. Jerry said the shop keeps customers because staff focuses on service. “We always try to do a little extra,” he said. “Service, service, service is our deal.”
A federal grand jury has indicted four Indianapolis, IN, men for allegedly operating a heroin distribution ring out of an inner-city auto body shop, prosecutors said April 10, 2014.
The indictment contained charges of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance against Francisco Javier Perez-Garcia, 36; Mario Vasquez, 26; Agustin Martinez-Acosta, 46; and Jeronimo Lagunes, 27. Perez-Garcia and Vasquez also were charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, prosecutors said.
The ring sold heroin from Perez-Garcia’s body shop in the Brightwood neighborhood on the near northeast side of Indianapolis, prosecutors said. Customers would phone the body shop to order heroin and Perez-Garcia, Vasquez, and Martinez-Acosta would sell it to them, they said. Prosecutors said they believe the heroin originated in Mexico, California, and Houston, TX.
During a traffic stop of Lagunes’ car March 23, 2014, on Interstate 70 west of Indianapolis, Brownsburg police found more than a kilogram of heroin in a Gucci purse in the rear of the vehicle, prosecutors said. The heroin with a street value of about $100,000 had been destined for the ring to distribute on the east side of Indianapolis.
“Heroin has become the scourge of our community in the past several years,” U.S. attorney Joe Hogsett said. “Few substances are more lethal right now. Heroin has no socio-economic or racial boundary and impacts every corner of our state.”
The Drug Enforcement Administration increased heroin seizures more than threefold between 2008 and 2013, said Dennis Wichern, assistant special agent in charge for Indiana.
The defendants face mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years to life if convicted, prosecutors said. All four men are in federal custody.
A message seeking comment was left for an attorney for Lagunes. Court records did not list attorneys for the other three men.
Large hailstones were reported in many locales on the eastern side of the metro area of Blue Springs, Harrisonville, and Raytown, MO. One weigh station operator said there were so many hailstones on Interstate 49, it looked as if Harrisonville was covered in snow. Home and auto body repair specialists were busy during the afternoon and evening hours assessing damage left by this storm, which packed hailstones as big as golf balls.
Raytown homeowner Sarah Boyd was caught in the storm, while hailstorms 1.5 inches in diameter fell on her cars and home. “It sounded pretty horrifying,” Boyd said. “It was hitting the glass while we were driving. It felt like it could break in at any time.”
“There’s kids getting off the bus and they were all running around,” Boyd said. Boyd said she was struck by one of the hailstones, and it left her with a big bruise on her ribs. One auto body repairman in Raytown said he was working late night after getting a half-dozen damaged cars into his garage, and dozens of calls from people needing help.
Garrell D. Johnson, 54, of Decatur, IL, passed away March 20, 2014, in Decatur Memorial Hospital. Garrell was born December 9, 1959, in Decatur, the son of D.E. “Ace” Johnson and Susanne Lane. He was employed in auto body repair and loved to work on show cars. He enjoyed music and going to concerts. Garrell was known for his sense of humor and loved to make people laugh. He leaves behind his son Shane Johnson, brother Darrell Johnson, and step-brother Jerry Baker. He was preceded in death by his parents and son Shannon Johnson. Memorial services to celebrate Garrell’s life were on Saturday, March 29, 2014, at Oak Grove Church of the Nazarene in Decatur. Memorial contributions may be made to the wishes of the family in c/o Shane Johnson. The family of Garrell D. Johnson was served by the Graceland/Fairlawn Funeral Home in Decatur, IL.
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