Metro-East News

Freeburg mourns 14-year-old boy hit and killed by 16-year-old driver

A boy killed in Freeburg on Tuesday afternoon was riding his bike when he was struck by an SUV driven by a teenager, police said.

Mason Schmittling, 14, of Freeburg, was pronounced dead of his injuries at 3:40 p.m. Tuesday after he was hit by the SUV, police Chief Michael Schutzenhofer said Wednesday.

The highly energetic boy was a “wild child” said his uncle Eric Schmittling, of Freeburg.

“He had the energy of every one of my kids, plus me and everybody else,” he said.

Schutzenhofer said Mason was riding his bike from Oak Brook Drive across North State to get to Main Street when he was struck by a 2000 Honda Pilot being driven by a 16-year-old. Police did not release the teen driver’s name.

Schutzenhofer said police are interviewing several witnesses and the SUV’s driver is cooperating with the investigation.

Freeburg schools have called in extra counselors, Freeburg District 70 Superintendent Tomi Diefenbach said Wednesday. The counselors are meeting the junior high students and will also be available for individuals as long as they’re needed, she said.

“We’re just trying to focus on the students here, and the families,” Diefenbach said.

Mason has relatives at the school, Diefenbach said.

Eric Schmittling said he got a message from one of Mason’s friends that said, “I’m gonna miss Mason but he got me to climb on top of things.”

“You wouldn’t have stopped him from getting on that bike and going out,” Schmittling said. “If it was summer, he was outside in the pool, in the woods, at the Freeburg Skate Park.”

Funeral arrangements with Renner Funeral Home in Belleville were pending on Wednesday afternoon; the family has set up a memorial account for Mason Schmittling at Citizens Community Bank.

Schutzenhofer said the intersection has a four-way stop with a light and the speed limit is 35 mph. He said the SUV was traveling north toward Belleville when it hit Mason.

Police, fire and an ambulance responded. Mason was taken to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in O’Fallon, where he was pronounced dead. Illinois State Police are assisting with the investigation, Schutzenhofer said.

A candlelight vigil will be held in Mason’s memory at the accident site at the intersection of State Street and Oak Brook Drive, according to multiple Facebook posts. Those attending have been asked to wear blue. Parking will be available at Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church at 612 N. State St. and donations to the family may be made in Mason’s memory at Citizens Community Bank.

Mary Cooley: 618-239-2535; @MaryCooleyBND