Elgin High students grieve after fatal weekend crash
By Janelle Walker For The Courier-News September 4, 2012 10:22PM
Updated: October 6, 2012 1:55PM
ELGIN — Counselors were brought in at Elgin High School on Tuesday to aid students left reeling from the weekend death of a former classmate and the serious injury to another, though the latter seemed to be out of danger as he remained hospitalized Tuesday evening.
Three or four additional counselors were brought in to help students coping with the loss, said John Heiderscheidt, safety coordinator for School District U46.
“The students are grieving,” Heiderscheidt said.
Lawrence Echols, 17, of Elgin, was killed in a crash at 12:50 a.m. Sunday west of Burlington. Echols was a student in U46 but no longer attended Elgin High School, Heiderscheidt said.
Kane County sheriff’s officials are still investigating the crash, officials said.
“The investigation will probably be a few weeks,” said Lt. Pat Gengler, public information officer with the sheriff’s office. “We have the accident reconstruction team working on their end, and our detectives are doing their follow-up as well.”
Officials are waiting for toxicology results, which may take a few weeks, Gengler said.
Echols was pronounced dead at the scene following the early morning crash on Plank Road, west of Burlington, according to sheriff’s department officials.
A 2007 Lincoln MKZ was westbound at what appeared to be a high rate of speed when it crossed the center line and left the roadway on the south side of Plank Road west of Engel Road, according to an initial investigation. The vehicle rolled several times and struck a tree, deputies said.
Echols and the other back-seat passenger, Shadontre Smith, 19, of South Elgin, had to be extricated from the wreckage. Smith, who also attended classes in U46, was flown by helicopter to Condell Medical Center in Libertyville. A hospital spokesman said he was in fair condition there Tuesday evening and had been taken out of the intensive care unit.
According to authorities, the driver, Shannon Hill, 17, and front-seat passenger Jamiah Harrison, 17, both of Elgin, fled the crash on foot and told officers that they walked to Sherman Hospital in Elgin. Search teams, concerned that the driver may have become disoriented because of the crash, searched for several hours before learning that the two had sought treatment.
The hospital, on North Randall Road, is approximately 14 to 15 miles away from the crash site.
Heiderscheidt said the crisis response team is routinely called in when a student dies. Other schools, where siblings attended, were also alerted that students may need someone to talk to, he added.
“Staff identifies if a student is in need, or they can self-identify that they want to” talk to a counselor, Heiderscheidt said. “They are not mandated to talk to anybody, or mandated to speak to a social worker. But we do give them a place to help them cope and grieve.”
As the school district safety director, it is often up to Heiderscheidt to talk to students about these types of crashes, he said.
“We grieve for the family and friends of the student who lost his life,” Heiderscheidt said. “Our message is to make good choices. Cars are dangerous things. Tell your parents where you are; and parents, know where your kids are.”