Metro-East News

Fourth person dies from injuries after I-55 pileup with semi

Tori Carroll
Tori Carroll

A fourth person died Thursday from injuries she suffered in a Nov. 21 multivehicle crash on Interstate 55 near Hamel, according to Illinois State Police Trooper Calvin Dye Jr.

Tori Carroll, of Alhambra, a 2015 Staunton High School graduate, died at Saint Louis University Medical Center at about 1:30 p.m. Thursday. She was critically injured when a semitrailer driven by a 53-year-old Colorado man crashed into seven vehicles on I-55.

Carroll was a passenger in a vehicle with sisters Hailey and Madisen Bertels, who also died in the crash.

Carroll’s mother, Tricia Crosley Carroll, posted on Facebook early Thursday morning that Tori Carroll was still alive at the time but was waiting for an organ transplant team to arrive.

“We are waiting for the transplant team because she was a giver in this life and the next,” she wrote. “Please pray over her as she goes peacefully. Please pray for the team so she can save many more lives. We love you Tori!”

The post, which was shared more than 400 times, drew dozens of supportive comments.

“So very sorry for your loss. What a wonderful thing she is doing to help others. She will live on through those she help. Sincere and heartfelt condolences to you all,” Sharon Calcaterra Ellebrecht wrote.

Others offered condolences and expressed heartbreak.

“Tori is a blessed person. She will be remembered through the many people whom she touched at Murray State and in her life,” Robert Davies wrote.

“Heaven will gain another selfless angel,” Lanette Thimsen commented. “Thank you Tori for giving life to so many others. Thank you to her parents for teaching her the values of life and generosity. May God lay his hands on the family so they may know peace and comfort. Amen.”

Tori attended Murray State University, graduating in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. She was focused on law, participating in Criminal Justice Society, the Mock Trial Team and Tri Sigma Sorority. Earlier this year, she had enrolled at the Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University, according to her resume on LinkedIn.

Police say the semitrailer crashed at highway speed into the seven passenger vehicles that were slowing or stopped in a construction area.

Bartels Sisters
Hailey Bartels (left) and sister Madisen Bartels (right) Provided

Hailey J. Bertels, 20, and her 17-year-old sister, Madisen N. Bertels, from Staunton, died at the scene of the crash.

Madisen was a senior at Staunton High School, and her sister was a 2015 graduate, according to Superintendent Dan Cox. Hailey was a junior at Murray State University studying communication disorders.

Cox said Tori Carroll and Hailey Bertels “were like sisters.”

“If you saw Tori, you’d see Hailey,” he said. “Everyone still laughs recalling stories about them. Those three have left an impact and a legacy on our school in terms of how they were involved, and the love of life and the humor they brought to our little school community.”

Cox said the school is continuing to offer counseling for students.

“It’s with deep, deep sadness we learned of the news of Tori. This accident resulted in a tragic loss for our community and schools,” he said. “It’s leaving a big hole in our school and our community.”

For the past two summers, Carroll worked for the Madison County clerk and recorder’s offices as a part-time summer clerk. In the clerk’s office, she worked on voter registration, among other projects. Clerk Debra Ming-Mendoza described her as “an absolute joy.”

“She came through the door in the morning with a big smile, and it stayed that way,” Ming-Mendoza said. “She was smart as a whip — whatever task I gave her, we gave her the instruction, and I never had to go back and supervise her.”

Ming-Mendoza said Carroll told them her ultimate intention after law school was to form a grassroots practice to provide legal aid. “She had such a sense of community service ... she made a huge difference.”

When the news came about Carroll’s injuries, Ming-Mendoza said the entire office was “heartbroken.”

“We clung to every bit of news we could get without being intrusive to her family,” she said. “Such a beautiful girl with such a beautiful spirit, and her life was cut so short ... We’re kind of speechless, actually, it hasn’t really sunk in.”

Cox, the Staunton superintendent, said the school sends its thoughts and prayers to the Bertels and Carroll families and thanked the community for its support since the accident.

“We started our school year with a motto of ‘be the difference,’ and we’ve seen it in school and in community,” he said. “People have gone above and beyond and done some heartwarming things for each other this week.”

There will be a public memorial service for the Bertels sisters from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday in the Staunton High School gym. There was a private funeral service Wednesday.

Vivian Vu, of Joplin, Mo., died on Thanksgiving after also suffering injuries in the crash.

Vu was a sophomore at Missouri Southern State University and a 2016 graduate from Joplin High School. Vu’s memorial service was Tuesday morning at the Congregation of the Mother Co-Redemptrix church in Carthage, Mo.

Vivian Vu Provided

As many as 10 other people were injured in the crash.

As of Thursday, Illinois State Police investigators were still trying to determine what caused the semi driver to crash into the other vehicles, which were ahead of him in traffic. Officials have not released the name of the truck driver.

O’Fallon attorney Robert Marcus has filed a petition in Madison County Circuit to represent the estates of the Bertels sisters. He declined comment Thursday on possible litigation.

“The family is just asking for privacy at this time, given that the private funeral was yesterday and the public funeral is this Saturday,” Marcus told the News-Democrat on Thursday.

There was a candlelight prayer vigil for Hailey, Madisen and Tori at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Staunton at 7 p.m. Thursday.

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