A Mascoutah woman was killed in a single-vehicle car crash early Wednesday after celebrating her 21st birthday with friends.
Rachel M. Kerwin died after she lost control of her car on Fuesser Road just west of Emig around 12:30 a.m. Wednesday. When she lost control, she hit a ditch and the car overturned several times in a field along the road.
She turned 21 on Tuesday.
Kerwin graduated from Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville in December with an associates degree in accounting and had registered for classes at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. She planned to start classes in the fall, according to her father, David Kerwin.
"When she walked in the room it made you smile. She was always smiling," he said. "She had a great personality and would do anything for anybody. She was a big animal lover and had two cats. She had a very bright future ahead of her and she was very smart."
Three passengers in Kerwin's car -- Zachary A. Lay, 25; David W. Franklin, 25 and Kayleigh R. Moran, 22, all of Mascoutah -- did not require medical attention, according to the St. Clair County Sheriff's Department accident report.
Kerwin was ejected from the vehicle and could not immediately be found by her friends or by emergency personnel. Her body was found beneath the front of her car by fire department personnel.
St. Clair County Deputy Coroner Mike Schutzenhofer pronounced Kerwin dead at the scene.
Lay and Franklin told deputies the four friends had been at a party in Mascoutah celebrating Kerwin's 21st birthday. According to her friends, Kerwin had been drinking at the party and had consumed about eight beers during the evening.
Moran told deputies the friends had just been talking about trading drivers because Kerwin had had too many drinks to drive when the crash happened.
"This is a tragic example of how quickly drinking and driving can end a young person's life," said St. Clair County Sheriff's Capt. Steve Johnson. "Why take the risk? Just have someone else drive."
Kerwin's two older sisters, Amanda Buckman and Jennifer Mutschler, both live in Mascoutah. Her mother is Marie Kerwin.
David Kerwin said he has fond memories of all the time spent with his youngest daughter, even after she became busy with school and being on her own.
"She always made time to come over to the house on weekends and would have dinner with us Saturday nights," he said. "She and her mom always went shopping together. She'd help with everything around the house, she just loved to help. She enjoyed working in the yard and she liked to paint pictures."
Kerwin worked as a server at Eckert's Restaurant in Belleville.
Memorials can be made in Kerwin's name to the Belleville Area Humane Society at 1301 S. 11th St. in Belleville.
Visitation for Kerwin will be held from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Saturday at the Moll Funeral Home in Mascoutah. A prayer service will be held at 4 p.m. Friday.
A funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at Holy Childhood of Jesus Catholic Church in Mascoutah.
Contact reporter Jennifer A. Bowen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2667.