Family members are raising money for funeral expenses as they remember four Buffalo Grove High School students, ages 16 to 18, that died in a major crash in Wheeling Tuesday.
The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office identified three of the four as Jesus Rodriguez, 16, of Wheeling; Richard De-Ita, 18, of Wheeling; and Kevin R. Hernandez-Teran, 17, of Wheeling.
The Lake County Coroner’s Office identified the fourth victim as Ricky Barcenas, 17, of Arlington Heights.
The Wheeling Police Department and Wheeling Fire Department responded to the crash, which occurred at Dundee Road and Schoenbeck Road in Wheeling, around 10:19 p.m. Tuesday.
The crash involved three vehicles and multiple occupants were trapped in the vehicles, police said. Eight ambulances were called to the scene.
Firefighters extricated four victims and transported a total of seven victims to local hospitals.
Rodriguez, De-Ita, Hernandez-Teran and Barcenas were occupants of the “primary vehicle,” police said. All four died following the crash.
Township High School District 214 confirmed Wednesday morning that the four teenagers were Buffalo Grove High School students. A fifth student remains hospitalized.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of these students during this time of tragedy. We also offer condolences to all Buffalo Grove students, families and staff members,” the school district said.
Brenda Lorenzo, the mother of Barcenas, said her son leaves behind two siblings and was a “wonderful son who helped everyone and was a very hard worker.”
“I couldn’t have asked for a better child. He meant so much to me and everyone else in his life,” Lorenzo said.
A fundraiser for Barcenas’ family has raised over $28,000 in a day to help with funeral expenses.
Angelina Gomez, Rodriguez’s sister, said her brother was loving and worked hard to help their parents.
“I do not have the words to tell how much he will be missed,” Gomez said.
A fundraiser for Rodriguez’s family has raised over $17,000 to help with the family.
Elena Salgado, an aunt of Hernandez-Teran, said her nephew was the man of the house after losing his father when he was five years old.
“He was loved by everyone growing up, and always made sure to be there for his Mother and siblings. He left behind his brother Alexis, sister Natalia, mother Aracely, stepdad Jose, Grandmother Evelia, and Grandfather Bartolo,” Salgado said.
A fundraiser for Hernandez-Teran’s family has raised almost $14,000.
De-Ita’s mother, Brenda De-Ita, said her son was “one of the sweetest” and “most loving and hard working young boys.”
“He loved enjoying life and bringing a smile to others, but most importantly he loved his family. He was just 1 week away from his high school graduation when he tragically passed away,” she said.
A fundraiser for De-Ita’s family has raised over $12,500.
Speed and a disregarded traffic signal appear to be the primary factors involved in the crash, police said.
One of the vehicles involved struck an electrical pole and caused a power outage in the area.
The Northwest Suburban Major Case Assistance Team’s Serious Traffic Accident Reconstruction unit along with Wheeling police crash investigators were on the scene recovering evidence and investigating.
Wheeling social service workers have also been involved and are working with the families “as they begin to process this terrible event,” police said.
The school district said they would be making counselors available as soon as possible to help the school community “deal with this tragic loss.”
Wheeling Police Chief James Dunne said he extends his heartfelt condolences to the families of the deceased.
Anyone who may have witnessed the crash is asked to contact the Wheeling Police Department at 847-459-2632.