Three dead – including two nuns – after 11-vehicle crash
A lone bouquet of roses was taped early Monday morning to a light pole on the south side of 95th Street near Cicero Avenue.
Meanwhile, a man stood in front of the strip mall near the intersection, using a leaf blower to remove the bits of glass and debris that remained from the tragic 11-car accident that occurred the previous afternoon. Two Little Company of Mary sisters were killed and third injured in the crash described by officials as “a horrific scene.”
The roses and the shards of metal and glass were the only signs that remained less than 24 hours after one of arguably the worst traffic accidents in the history of Oak Lawn.
The roses were attached to the pole by Oak Lawn resident Jenni Simpson, who thought of the idea after taking her daughter to school. She drove the accident site and affixed the roses the pole with the help of her son, Kurt, 7.
“I drove by there, and I was numb,” Simpson said. “It was so sad. It was devastating. It’s just such a tragedy. It could be any of us.”
Simpson doesn’t know any of three people killed in the crash, but didn’t believe that’s was important in order to honor the victims.
“It’s the right thing to do,” she said
Many people in the community, especially the Evergreen Park area, did know two of the victims.
“It was a horrific scene and, as (Police Chief Michael Murray) pointed out, trained investigators were shocked,” Oak Lawn Police Division Chief Randy Palmer said.
Sister Jean Stickney, 86, and Sister Kab Kyoung Kim, 48, died at the scene after the car they were driving was struck by a pick-up truck driven by Edward L. Carthans, 81, of Chicago.
Carthans also was killed in the crash, in which the pickup he was driving veered in to the opposite of lanes of 95th Street, ran a red light and slammed into cars waiting at for the light to change, police said.
The third person in the car, and the driver, Sister Sharon Ann Walsh, is currently in stable condition at Little Company of Mary Hospital, officials said.
Twenty-three people were treated at the scene and 11 were taken to area hospitals, officials said.
The accident remains under investigation and could take weeks to reconstruct, police said.
Six Oak Lawn police officers were dedicated Tuesday to accident reconstruction duties, Palmer said.
“I can’t get into specifics. It is an ongoing investigation,” Palmer said at a press conference Monday morning at village hall.
Witnesses told police they initially saw Carthans slumped over the wheel of the pickup truck at 95th Street and Western Avenue and asked if he needed assistance.
Carthans declined help and drove away, police said.
“He was stopped at the light and a person saw him slumped at the wheel and didn’t know if he was having a medical emergency or fell asleep,” Palmer said. “That person did volunteer to park the vehicle for him if he was in distress.”
Moments later, Carthans was involved in a four-car accident at 95th Street and Keeler Avenue near Target. None of the drivers in the crash were seriously injured or transported to the hospital, officials said.
Carthans then drove at a high rate of speed toward 95th Street and Cicero Avenue. As he approached the intersection, he crossed into the eastbound lanes, ran the red light and struck cars stopped at a traffic light on eastbound 95th Street, officials said.
Officials said it is too early to determine if alcohol was involved in the accident or if Carthans had health concerns that caused him to drive erratically.
Sister Stickney served as the vocation director for the Sister of the Little Company of Mary and was a member of Little Company of Mary’s board of directors.
“There is no doubt that our hospital suffered a tremendous loss last night,” said Dennis Reilly, president and CEO for Little Company of Mary Hospital. “On behalf of the board of directors, physicians, administration and employees, we send our deepest sympathies and condolences to Sister Jean and Sister Anna’s families. They were compassionate women who devoted their lives to caring for others. We continue to pray for all who were involved in yesterday’s accident.”
Sister Stickney was born in Nashua, N.H., and joined the Little Company of Mary Sister in 1951. She has served in Evergreen Park; Cambridge, Mass; Torrance, Calif; and Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Sister Kab Kyoung Kim, known as Sister Anna Kim to those who knew in the United States, was born in Seoul, Korea.
She was a member of the Little Company of Mary Sisters in the Korean Province and was visiting the American Province for the past two years to pursue her studies and gain an understanding of LCM ministries in the United States.
Sister Kim assisted with Little Company of Mary’s comprehensive bereavement services, more specifically the children’s support group, entitled “The Heart Connection.”