Coroner IDs 3 Tampico teens killed Thursday in collision with semi

Memorial vigil to be held Sunday evening at Village Hall

First responders and neighbors work at an accident scene in rural Whiteside County Thursday, March 28, 2024.

TAMPICO – Whiteside County Coroner Joseph McDonald released the names of three teenagers killed Thursday in a collision with a semitractor-trailer at the intersection of Hahnaman and Luther roads outside the village.

They are 16-year-old Douglas “DJ” Dorathy and 14-year-olds Channing Swertfeger and Jayden Hanson, McDonald said in an email Friday morning.

The three Prophetstown-Lyndon-Tampico High School/Middle School students, all from this rural village of fewer than 800 people, died at the scene.

A roadside memorial is seen Friday, March 29, 2024, at the site where three Prophetstown-Lyndon-Tampico High School/Middle School students were killed in a crash at the corner of Luther and Hahnaman Roads.

They were in a pickup truck heading north on Luther shortly before 1 p.m. that failed to stop at the stop sign and was struck by an eastbound semi, according to a news release from Whiteside County Sheriff John Booker.

The driver of the pickup, another boy who was not identified, was treated for injuries that were not life-threatening, Booker said. The semi driver, a Whiteside County man who also was not identified, was not injured.

Three of the boys were in high school.

Hahnaman Road was closed for about seven hours, Booker said. The investigation is ongoing.

A memorial vigil will be held at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at Tampico Village Hall, 202 W. Second St. Donations will be accepted for the families of the three boys.

Although the district is on spring break until Tuesday, PLT’s crisis counseling team was at the school, 38 Ferry St., on Friday to help anyone who needed it.

By noon, a couple dozen students had arrived to avail themselves of the help, as well as staff members from PLT and Erie schools, Superintendent Heidi Lensing said.

“The support from all the area school districts has been amazing,” Lensing said, adding that counselors, social workers and pastors from Bi-County Special Education, Sterling, Erie, Milledgeville-Chadwick and elsewhere had reached out with offers to assist, and had brought therapy dogs and refreshments to the school.

Counselors also will be on hand to assist students when they return to school Tuesday, as will substitute teachers to support PLT teachers as needed, Lensing said.

She and her staff will continue to assess the needs of students and staff over the next few days, and will offer support and services as the community continues to process its grief over “this devastating loss,” Lensing said.

“To lose one child is indescribable, [but] to lose three at once is just unfathomable,” she said.

Kathleen Schultz

Kathleen A. Schultz

Kathleen Schultz is a Sterling native with 40 years of reporting and editing experience in Arizona, California, Montana and Illinois.