WASHINGTON — Evelyn Collins took a deep breath and reflected on the loss of her daughter and her granddaughter, both killed in a horrific crash Friday.
"It gives me comfort to know that I raised them in a Christian home, and that Holley was raised in a Christian home," she said softly. "I have faith in God, and I know they are in a better place."
Regina A. Swartz, 46, of Washington was killed when her car collided with another vehicle at the intersection of Cummings Lane and U.S. Route 24. Her daughter, 6-year-old Holley, died hours later at the hospital.
A teenage boy was cited with failing to yield to a red light after the crash at 5:15 p.m. Friday.
Washington Deputy Police Chief Jeff Stevens said Saturday the minor teen, whose name and age haven't been released, was driving a 2001 Ford Mustang west on U.S. Route 24 when he ran a red light and struck with a 2007 Chevrolet Impala driven by Swartz who died at the scene. Holley was rushed to the pediatric intensive care unit at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria but died at 9:38 p.m. Friday, said Peoria County Coroner Johnna Ingersoll.
"It was a side impact," Stevens said. "It looked to me like it was the exact center of the car."
The force of the collision caused those two cars to carom into two other vehicles, a 2011 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck and a 2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Remarkably, a Toyota Camry was situated between those two vehicles. The woman who was driving that car wasn't injured, nor was her car involved in the accident other than being hit by debris.
Preliminary reports indicate Swartz had the green light and was going south on Cummings Lane when her car was struck at about 5:15 p.m., Stevens said. Swartz was pronounced dead at the scene at 6:24 p.m., Ingersoll said. The coroner said the accident happened about half a mile from the Swartz family's home.
"It's a route she had traveled for 14 years that she has lived there," Collins said of her daughter, who she added was a person who never had a frown.
"I've never found a girl who did light up the world like her. She was always wiling to help anyone. She was a saint," Collins said of her daughter, who had three sisters.
The coroner and Stevens both said Holley Swartz was in the back seat in a child-restraint seat. She was a first-grade student at Central Primary School in Washington. District 51 Superintendent Dale Heidbreder said Saturday that support will be available at school Monday to help students and teachers deal with the tragedy.
Holley, Collins said, started riding a bicycle this summer and was still practicing her turns. She liked her dolls and was involved with her church.
Stevens said the teenage driver of the Mustang was taken to St. Francis, where he reportedly underwent surgery. A female passenger, he said, was treated and released. It wasn't clear if the 37-year-old driver of the pickup, William L. Mickelson III, or the Jeep's driver, Joann K. Smiley, 59, were transported to the hospital, but they were not listed as patients at St. Francis on Saturday night.
State transportation department trucks were used to block off parts of the intersection Friday night while investigators tried to recreate what happened, which Stevens said helped enormously to protect officers. Stevens said police finally left the scene about 11:40 p.m.
Officials collected fluid samples from the Mustang's driver, a procedure that is normal in such incidents, Stevens said. Information about the speeds of the vehicles and other details were still under investigation. And while the driver was cited Friday night, the investigation continues and more charges could be coming if merited.
Interim Police Chief Ed Papis on Saturday expressed his "sympathy and heart-felt condolences" to the Swartz family, saying the crash affected the entire community.
Holley's teddy bear was launched from the car from the force of impact. Her blanket, Collins said, was inside, but they couldn't find "Bear." That is, until two police officers found the stuffed bear in a street grate.
"I want to commend the police officer who found Holley's bear," Collins said. "It wasn't in the car, and we found her blanket, but we couldn't find Bear.
"That officer stayed until it was dark, and he found it in a water grate, and my other daughter came back to get it."
The bear will be at the double funeral, which will likely be later this week.
Collins said her daughter was the type to buy little things for Holley, such as a pair of sparkly shoes that were based upon a cartoon Holley liked. She hadn't gotten a chance to give them to the girl.
They will be buried with her.
Andy Kravetz can be reached at 686-3283 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @andykravetz.