CHANNAHON TOWNSHIP – Ryan Smith, 19, of Morris was a fun-loving kid who loved diesel pickup trucks, according to Andy Kacena, Grundy Area Vocational Center automotive instructor.
"He was a great kid and hard worker," Kacena said Thursday morning.
Smith died Wednesday night when he swerved off Interstate 55 in Channahon Township after being cut off by a semitrailer, Illinois state police said.
Smith was driving north about 7:30 p.m. in a Ford pickup in the left lane when a semitrailer changed lanes and cut him off, witnesses told state police. Smith swerved to avoid hitting the semitrailer. He was ejected from his pickup as it rolled over several times in the median ditch before the truck came to rest in the southbound lanes south of the Route 6 interchange.
The driver of the semitrailer kept going and has not been identified.
Smith was not wearing his seat belt at the time of the crash.
Smith was taken to Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, where he was pronounced dead at 8:28 p.m., according to the Will County Coroner's office.
Smith spent his senior year at GAVC not only attending his Automotive 2 class, but also being a teacher's assistant in the afternoon where he would come back to GAVC and help students in Automotive 1 with their labs, Kacena said.
"I've learned a lot from them," Smith said of the GAVC in a February Morris Daily Herald article. "When I first started my junior year, I knew only a little bit, but they've taught me so much."
Cody Decker of Morris met Smith when Smith moved to Morris during their high school years and said Smith was an outgoing person who always spoke his mind.
"He spoke his mind, but he also was one of those people that if you needed help he'd do his best to try to help you," Decker said.
Decker said Smith loved working on cars, jacked up trucks and mudding.
Mary Bookwalter, friends with Smith's mother, Rachael Harr, said Smith was a typical 19-year old who was happy-go-lucky and goofy. A boy who adored his mother.
Bookwalter has started a donation page on gofundme.com to help raise money for his funeral.
"I know how devastating it is to worry about funeral costs," Bookwalter said about starting the fund. "If I can do anything to help, I will."
Funeral arrangements were not immediately known Thursday.
• Morris Daily Herald reporter Heidi Litchfield contributed to this story.