ELWOOD – The family of the 8-year-old girl who died Tuesday evening when a minivan collided with a semitrailer on Route 53 had been celebrating a birthday at a nearby restaurant moments before the crash.
The accident occurred at one of several Route 53 intersections where local officials want a stoplight, largely because of the dangers created by increasing numbers of semitrailers on the highway.
Tuesday’s fatal crash was the sixth at that intersection in the past year – and fourth to result in personal injury, police said. Three involved semitrailers.
“My heart dropped,” said Mony Ilijazi, co-owner the Silver Dollar restaurant, where the party was held Tuesday night. “Everyone’s pretty shaken up by it.”
Madison Frost, who died in the accident, was sitting in the third-row passenger seat in a white 2010 Dodge Caravan driven by her mother, Tina Frost, 36, of Crest Hill, when the crash occurred at 6:13 p.m. The family had just left the restaurant when the minivan pulled out from Mississippi Avenue attempting to make a left onto Route 53.
The driver of the 2012 Volvo semitrailer, Lehi Resendiz-Montalvo, 47, of Bensenville, refused medical treatment but is cooperating with the investigation. Resendiz-Montalvo had just picked up a trailer from the BNSF railyard and was headed to Itasca when the crash occurred, police said.
Based on the preliminary investigation by state police, the Caravan pulled out into the path of the semitrailer, which was unable to avoid the crash.
There is a stop sign on Mississippi Avenue at the Route 53 intersection. But for years, local officials and legislators have sought approval from the Illinois Department of Transport to install a traffic light there, and at several other intersections along Route 53, because of accidents involving semitrailers.
In 2012, flashing lights were installed at the Schweitzer Road intersection in Joliet, where there had been three collisions with semitrailers, one of them fatal.
Ilijazi said heavy truck traffic is common along Route 53, but he can’t recall there being any fatal collisions at the Mississippi Avenue intersection other than Tuesday night.
“In the 3½ years we’ve been out here, I’ve never seen anything out here of this magnitude,” he said.
Previous attempts to get a signal there have been unsuccessful but the village recently hired an engineer to study traffic volume again before officials submit another request.
“I’ve gotten several calls this morning from residents asking why there isn’t a light already,” Elwood Police Chief Fred Hayes said Wednesday, adding the village has a pending request for IDOT to lower the 55 mph speed limit in the village corridor.
State Rep. Larry Walsh Jr., D-Joliet, said he contacted the Illinois Department of Transportation on Wednesday to see what, if anything, could be done.
State transportation officials will require a traffic study before determining whether traffic lights are needed, Walsh said, which could take months.
Elwood Village President William Offerman said he hopes IDOT takes the tragic accident “to heart.”
Madison’s sister Maria Frost, 15, Kevin Smith, a relative, and his girlfriend, Shannon Slobodnik, 22, also were riding in the Caravan.
The father of the family, Christopher Frost, was in a second vehicle behind them and witnessed the crash.
Kevin Smith’s brother, Kyle, was the first witness to reach Madison and began performing CPR before Officer Jennifer Leddin took over.
Maria Frost, 15, was transferred from Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center to Christ Hospital Tuesday night. Hospital reports said she suffered a broken pelvis, broken ribs and punctured lung, but is expected to survive.
Tina Frost was treated and released from Saint Joseph and Slobodnik was treated and released from Silver Cross Hospital late Tuesday. Smith was expected to be released from Silver Cross on Wednesday. Hayes said police reports indicated all of the adults’ injuries were “serious-to-critical.”