Hundreds gathered on Monday night at Oriole Park in Chicago to mourn the victims of an early Sunday morning crash when a vehicle driving the wrong way on Interstate 90 collided head-on with a Rolling Meadows family’s van south of Marengo.
Seven people were killed in the crash, including five members of a single family, authorities said. Among the fatalities were Lauren Dobosz of Rolling Meadows, who was a mother and a cheer coach for the Oriole Park Falcons, a junior league football team in Northwest Chicago, near O’Hare International Airport.
Lauren Dobosz’s four children – Emma, Lucas, Nicholas and Ella – also were killed. A fifth child, Kat, a 13-year-old girl who was a friend of Dobosz’ eldest daughter, also was killed in the crash, according to those present at Monday night’s vigil.
Thomas Dobosz, the husband and father, was driving the van. He was the crash’s lone survivor. He suffered serious injuries and was taken to a local hospital. As of Monday, no update had been given on his status.
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A prayer vigil and balloon release was held at Oriole Park in Chicago on Monday night, Aug. 1, 2022, to mourn the loss of seven people killed, including Lauren Dobosz and her four children, in an early Sunday morning crash on Interstate 90 near Hampshire. (Aaron Dorman)
Monday night’s gathering included prayers, a balloon release and letter boards for those in attendance to sign, as friends and family spoke through tears about the positive impact the deceased, and Tom, had on their community.
“I don’t know if I have the words to sum up what the Doboszes meant to us,” said Ryan Cooper, cheer director for the Oriole Park Falcons, who said she’d coached alongside Lauren for years. “They were amazing people, amazing parents. They were such an inspiring couple. She’d be honored to see the amount of people out here tonight.”
Cooper offered a sober appraisal of Tom’s status in the hospital, saying, “We may need a little more than prayers.”
He encouraged those present to share positive memories and to take away something from the tragedy beyond the loss of life.
“God is big,” Hernandez said. “Hug your loved ones. Hold everybody close to you tight. You never know when is the last time you might seem them. But we got a lot of angels watching over us. They might be gone, but they are never forgotten.”
Even as those present spoke fondly of their time with the Dobosz family, some friends and family said they struggled to make sense of what happened.
“It’s terrible, a huge tragedy,” said Jeff Pabish, who along with his wife said he was longtime friend of the Dobosz family. “All that life lost. Tom and Lauren had a heart of gold. They were just the greatest people.”
Another friend, Melanie Kopiec, whose kids Lauren coached, said it has been hard explaining the fatal crash to kids. Several of the children’s friends, from both the cheer and youth football team, cried as they spoke.
“It’s a heartache for the kids,” Kopiec said. “To many people, they were an amazing family. It’s a strong community here at Oriole Park.”
The other driver in the crash, Jennifer Fernandez, 22, of Carpentersville, also was killed, authorities said. Initial investigations from the Illinois State Police show Fernandez was driving on the wrong side of the highway when the crash happened, according to a news release.
It identified both Thomas and Lauren Dobosz, as well as Jennifer Fernandez, 22, of Carpentersville.
Autopsies for those killed are scheduled for Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, the release states. The office will be working with both the state police and the Hampshire Fire Protection District, who also responded to the crash.
State police are still investigating why both the Dobosz family and Fernandez were traveling and where they were coming from. No further updates on the investigation were available Monday, a spokesperson with the agency said.
Along with Hampshire, fire departments out of Marengo, Genoa and Pingree Grove assisted with the crash Sunday morning. The crash was a head-on collision that resulted in both vehicles at one point becoming engulfed in flames.
The Dobosz family was driving in a blue 2005 Chevrolet full-sized van, while Fernandez was driving a gray 2010 Acura TSX, state police said Sunday.
The crash also caused another one, a state police spokesperson said. A truck tractor semi-trailer was stopped to allow for a helicopter to land to assist with the crash. A second truck tractor semi-trailer was unable to stop in time and rear-ended the first truck and then crashed into the concrete median. One person was taken to the hospital as a result.
As a result of both crashes, the westbound lanes of I-90 in the area were closed for hours, with traffic being diverted to a nearby road. The lanes were opened back up at 9:25 a.m. later that morning. A GoFundMe to help pay for the funeral costs was posted by the Oriole Park Falcons Football and Cheer, which is a youth travel football and cheer program, according to their website.
As of Monday at 9:15 p.m., the fund had received $52,000 in donations.