14-year-old teen injured in Monday crash

Police continue their investigation as church members pray for boy and his family

Editor's note: We regret to inform you that the 14-year-old struck on Monday in downtown Hinsdale passed away earlier today (July 20). We will provide updates about service information as it becomes available.

Parishioners at St. Isaac Jogues Church and others continue to pray for a 14-year-old Hinsdale boy who was critically injured after being hit by a Jeep Monday afternoon in downtown Hinsdale.

Father Burke Masters, pastor at St. Isaac Jogues, said groups gathered Monday and Tuesday nights to pray the rosary.

"There were probably a couple hundred people on Monday night and 400 or 500 people last night," he said. "The community has really rallied around the family and just everybody wants to do something. The only thing we can do right now is pray."

The 2020 Jeep Wrangler, driven by an employee of Fuller's Car Wash at 102 Chicago Ave., rapidly accelerated as it left the car wash bay on the Lincoln Street side of the business, according to Hinsdale police. It hit the teen, who was walking on the sidewalk on the west side of Lincoln, before slamming into Fontano's Subs across the street, where four more people were injured.

The teen, who has not been publicly identified, was taken to UCM AdventHealth Hinsdale Hospital in critical condition and later flown by helicopter to Comer Children's Hospital at the University of Chicago, police reported.

Doctors were waiting Wednesday for the swelling to go down, Father Burke said.

"He's been in a coma to let his body kind of start to heal and then they are going to run some tests," he said. "They have been concerned about head injuries from the accident."

The boy, who recently graduated from eighth grade at St. Isaac Jogues School, and his family, including three older siblings, are longtime members of the parish, the pastor said.

Also struck by the vehicle or debris from the collision were three other people inside the restaurant - a 55-year-old Hinsdale man and a man and a woman from Westmont, both age 20. All three were taken to Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove in serious but not life-threatening conditions, police reported. Another Fontano's customer, a 21-year-old from Clarendon Hills, received minor injuries and was driven to Elmhurst Hospital by a relative.

The driver of the Jeep, a 16-year-old from Hinsdale, was taken to UCM AdventHealth La Grange to be checked out.

Police are continuing to investigate the cause of the crash, Police Chief Brian King said Wednesday. Police have interviewed witnesses, including the driver, and reviewed surveillance footage from area businesses. The Jeep is in police custody, and data downloaded from the vehicle's "black box" is being analyzed.

The Major Crash Reconstruction Team from the DuPage County Merit Task Force is assisting Hinsdale police with the investigation.

The police department also has been in contact with the state's attorney's office, King said. A final determination on charges will be made after all data has been collected, reviewed and analyzed.

"This is not expected to happen until some time next week," King said. "We will work quickly but methodically to bring the investigation component of this to its rightful conclusion."

Fuller's Car Wash and Fontano's remain closed today, July 20.

Doug Fuller said he and his family are devastated.

"We've been your neighbors for years and we are absolutely heartbroken," he said. "Our prayers are with all those injured and their families.

"We do not yet know what caused the driver to lose control of the car, but we are working with law enforcement on their investigation," he said.

The car wash, which has been closed since Monday, might re-open tomorrow, Fuller said.

"I'm going to have grief counselors come over," he told The Hinsdalean Wednesday. "The guys are all shook up, especially the ones that were part of it."

Fuller said when his son, Aaron, was suffering a life-threatening infection while stationed in Guam, parishioners at St. Isaac Jogues prayed for him.

"They told me my son wasn't going to make it and my son made it," he said.

Now, in a twist of fate, he's praying for the mom of the 14-year-old, the same woman who prayed for his son.

Fontano's owner Dom-inic Fontano Sr. said prayer is what the community should be focused on this week.

"At this point in time, the whole community is grieving," he said. "The families aren't grieving - they are devastated."

He had left work Monday to go home for lunch just minutes before the crash. He had made it as far as Ogden Avenue and Interstate 83 when he got a call from his niece, who was working at the shop, screaming and crying. He turned around and drove back as quickly as possible.

"I was in total shock. You want to try to help, help, help but you don't know if you are in the way," he said.

He credited first responders with doing an excellent job.

"They are phenomenal. I don't know what else to say other than how great and how fast they worked," Fontano said.

He is still struggling with what he saw when he watched the shop's surveillance video before handing it over to police.

"Looking at the video we have here, I haven't slept in two days," he said. "I close my eyes and I see it. It's something I don't think I'll ever forget."

Fontano said he likely won't reopen his eatery until next week, adding that the status of his shop should not be the primary concern. He also criticized some of the Chicago TV media for a lack of sensitivity in their reporting.

In addition to asking community members for prayers for the families, he encouraged them to remember this was an accident.

"The young man that was driving the car, he's got to have this on his mind for the rest of his life," Fontano said. "He didn't physically get hurt, but mentally it's got to put a strain on him as well."

King noted that a team of police department clergy were on hand at the scene to comfort those who had witnessed the accident or its aftermath. Those individuals are available to others who are having difficulty processing this tragedy.

"Hinsdale is a tight-knit community," King said. "That connectedness becomes even more apparent in times of crisis. This tragedy on some level affects all of us as parents, as coworkers, as community members. The police department has resources available for those seeking assistance."

Father Burke said faith can help when things happen for which there is no explanation.

"What we do know is that we serve a God of love, of mercy, and we serve a God who himself has suffered," he said. "His mother suffered watching him be crucified. We believe God always brings good out of very difficult situations."

Something beyond this life gives hope, he said, and he reminded people to focus on what is most important.

"This family, their lives have been turned upside down in a matter of seconds," he said. "Never pass up the opportunity to tell your loved ones that you love them and to really make the most of every minute that we have. The next minute is not guaranteed."

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean