WILMINGTON – A Plainfield man who died in a construction accident Friday was a popular figure at local midget races.
Patrick C. Wilda, 33, was the third-generation of his family to enjoy open-wheel racing and regularly competed at Grundy County Speedway.
"Being around [midget racing] and seeing all of what goes into it really changed my outlook," Wilda told the Morris Daily Herald in 2008. "You learn that there is a lot more than driving. There's a lot of math involved and some engineering. I learned to love the intensity and the speed and all that goes into the sport.”
Mike Guglielmucci, former managing director of the Short Track Auto Racing Series, said "Wilda Jr." raced for more than a decade.
"If you had a part go wrong and needed one, he was happy to help," Guglielmucci said. "The Wilda family is well-respected in the local racing community and this young man was another example why. It's really a terrible tragedy."
On Friday morning, Wilda was installing roof beams at a warehouse under construction in the 24500 block of Lorenzo Road. Wilmington Police Chief Phillip Arnold said Wilda was alone in a bucket lift that was extended to the roof when other employees told him to come down for lunch break.
They discovered he was unresponsive.
Other workers lowered the lift and performed CPR, Arnold said. Wilda was taken to Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, where he was pronounced dead at 12:43 p.m.
An autopsy performed Saturday showed Wilda sustained some injuries, but the cause of his death will be determined after toxicology and police reports are completed, according to Chief Will County Deputy Coroner Bob Brenczewski.
Wilda was employed by Area Erectors Inc. Arnold said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the incident.
Wilda started racing at the age of 9, when he began competing in go-carts. He moved up to the full-sized model at 16, when he came to the Grundy County Speedway in Morris and captured National Rookie of the Year honors.
"He was very precise with his maintenance. When (the STARS organization) was testing for new tires, we asked Patrick to do it because we trusted his assessment and feedback," Guglielmucci said.
Fred C. Dames Funeral Home is handling the funeral arrangements.