Seven people, including five children, died in a multi-vehicle collision on Sunday morning on Jane Addams Memorial Tollway’s westbound lanes. According to reports, the accident happened close to milepost 33.5 and the unincorporated settlement of Riley on Interstate 90 in McHenry County, when a vehicle driving the wrong way hit the Dobosz family car head-on, killing the mother, her four children, and two other people. The rural area is situated halfway between Marengo and Hampshire.
Around 2:10 am, the wrong-way driver, identified as Jennifer Fernandez, struck the Dobosz family van, which had Lauren Dobosz, her husband Thomas Dobosz and their four children: Emma, 13, Lucas, 7, Nicholas, 6, and Ella, 5. The accident killed Lauren and all four of her children.
Upon collision, both vehicles burst into flames. Driver Fernandez and a 13-year-old passenger in her vehicle died on the spot. According to Illinois State Police, 22-year-old Fernandez was a Carpentersville resident. Her teen passenger is yet to be identified.
32-year-old Thomas, who was driving the family van, was airlifted to a nearby hospital after suffering serious injuries.
According to neighbours, the family was leaving for a vacation when the tragedy took place. From her home in Rolling Meadows, Lauren commuted to Lulus, a gaming establishment, where she worked as a bartender.
The general manager of the business described the mother of four as “very friendly” and “outgoing,” and he quickly made friends with her.
Manager Kenny Felten said, “I was shocked. I was in a trembling state of shock. You never imagine that a familiar face will take part in something so tragic. Right now.”
Although Lauren was well-liked by her coworkers, she devoted a lot of her spare time to cheerleading coaching for the Oriole Park Falcons.
Felten said she was very passionate about it and spoke about it frequently. “We must keep her in mind for that. With everything that has occurred, it is difficult right now. We should keep in mind that she loved her children, her family, and being a part of their family. She also loved fundraising for charitable causes and doing other things like that.”
The two 13-year-old girls went to the same school as Dawn Brand’s daughter, and who said that “everyone is having a very hard time” and that “the kids are all devastated.”
She said, “I know they were very active in the community. Everyone claimed that they were a very devoted family who were also active in sports and other things. Everybody is handling it very poorly.”
In order to help with funeral costs, Lauren’s cheerleading squad has started a GoFundMe page. They described the mother as “full of life and laughter” and the children as “spunky, sweet, and sassy.”
The team wrote in their post that Lauren “always made a great impression on everyone she met. She was full of life, laughter, and always a good time. We will miss you, Lauren, as well as your spirited, endearing, and sassy children and your adored friend. This year, we’ll shine brightly. Miss you a lot!”
The cause of Fernandez’s wrong-way driving is being investigated by Illinois State Police agents. It is anticipated that autopsies will be performed soon.
The children’s school, Community Consolidated School District 15, issued a statement saying, “We are simply heartbroken, in shock, and in mourning over the tragic loss of five students and one set of parents.” According to district officials, mental health professionals will be available all week to help anyone struggling with the loss.
On August 2, a caregiver support training will also be held to give parents and staff guidance on how to assist kids “during this difficult time,” according to the district.