Two children who recently moved to the O’Fallon area from Ohio were killed and their mother and another sibling were injured Tuesday in Indiana when their van was struck from behind after slowing for a highway construction zone.
Indiana State Police said the crash killed 1-year-old Finley Bereda and 5-year-old Brennen Bereda. Their mother, Christina Bereda, 33, and 3-year-old Jordan Bereda were treated at hospitals following the crash on Interstate 70 about 60 miles southwest of Indianapolis.
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Police said a tractor-trailer driven by 62-year-old Amritpal Singh of Quebec, Canada, struck the Beredas’ van before colliding with another semi.
Indiana State Police Sergant Joe Watts said their investigation into the accident is still ongoing, but it appeared from the crash site that Singh failed to stop or slow down appropriately.
“It looks like if he had any braking at all, it was at the very last second. It’s not one of those accidents where there are several hundred feet of skid marks; there was very little, if any, braking before the impact,” Watts said.
Watts said they will submit information gathered from the investigation to the prosecutor’s office, who will then decide whether any charges will be filed against Singh.
Police said child-restraint seats were in use in the van.
Police listed the family as being from Beavercreek, Ohio. According to staff at St. Clare Catholic Church in O’Fallon, the Bereda family had recently moved to the metro-east and the family had registered at St. Clare.
Dr. Christina Bereda is a doctor and the medical director at Express Medical Care in Fairview Heights, according to Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation license records.
Her husband and the children’s father is Dr. David Bereda, who works at Scott Air Force Base.
The Rev. Jim Deiters, pastor of St. Clare Church, said David Bereda was in Chicago on exercises while Christina Bereda took the children to visit their grandparents. They were on their way back from the vacation when the accident occurred.
Christina has been released from the hospital, and both parents have been able to visit their surviving child in the Indianapolis children’s hospital, Deiters said.
“(David) is still kind of numb to the reality of it all,” Deiters said. “They’re remaining in Indianapolis until their other child is released.”
Deiters said it’s difficult to counsel a family that has undergone a tragedy like this. “The first thing you don’t tell them is, ‘This is God’s will’ or ‘I guess God wanted two more angels in Heaven,’” he said. “People mean well when they say that, but... God doesn’t want to take children from their parents.”
Instead, Deiters said, it’s important to just “be with them,” and let them know they are not alone in their grief. “Even Jesus needed an angel of consolation,” Deiters said. “We believe in the power of prayer, so pray for this angel of consolation to carry their heavy hearts.”
The oldest child was enrolled to begin kindergarten at St. Clare Catholic School, Deiters said, and the family had already attended an open house and begun to form attachments within their community. Now, he said, that community wants to help the family in their difficult time, but is not sure what form that will take.
“They’re just so overwhelmed,” Deiters said. “People want to do something, but (the Beredas) haven’t had time to think of how people can show their support... We will find a creative way to help them, to be a support for them here.”
A friend of the family has started a crowd funding donation page for the Beredas with the intention to give “Love, Thoughts, Prayers, and Support” to the family. It has a goal of $40,000 and had raised nearly $35,000 and had 12,000 shares by Thursday afternoon.
Funeral arrangements for 1-year-old Finley Bereda and 5-year-old Brennen Bereda were pending Thursday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.