The family members were Ecuadoran immigrants on their way to New Jersey. The crash happened near Bristol, Indiana, on an area of the Indiana Toll Road that is prone to deadly accidents.
All seven of the individuals killed are related. Authorities confirm that the minivan the victims were traveling in struck a deer before the vehicle was hit from behind by a tractor-trailer.
Three family members were transported to hospitals in the area. Officers said none of the passengers were wearing seat belts, but an infant who died was strapped into a safety seat.
Police say the group, composed of three related families, was traveling to New Jersey to attend a funeral. Tomas Mayancela, a close friend of the victims, said they were also going to New York to see family members and show them their new infant.
Mayancela, founder of an Ecuadorian cultural center in Albany Park, said in Spanish that he worked closely with one of the victims who was also a founder of the organization.
A friend of the victims said the three families, all related, were excited about going on a road trip. One of the families was especially happy about showing his newborn child to friends and family living in New York.
The friend added that they came to Chicago from Ecuador looking for a better life.
Friday night, a relative of the victims, Luz Chimborazo, says they were going to New York for a baptism. She and other surviving family members were in mourning Friday night, looking at photos and sharing memories about the relatives they have lost.
Twenty-eight-year-old Cayetano Quizhpe is in stable condition. His wife, 21-year-old Maria Yupa, was killed along with his 8-year-old son Edwin and six-week-old son Franklin .
The second family involved includes 52-year-old Pedro Chimborazo, who was killed. His wife, 36-year-old Maria Yupa, is in critical condition. Their 15-year-old son Pedro was killed.
The third family includes the driver, 30-year-old Manuel Chimborazo, who is in critical condition. Friends say he is in a coma. His wife, Maria Chimborazo, was killed along with an 8-year-old daughter Jessica.
Mayancela says the loss of members of these three families is difficult for their friends and family to deal with. They came to Chicago in hopes of a better life and now are gone.
Mayancela said he feels for the husband of one family and the wife of the other because they are fighting to live and are unaware that their children and spouses perished in the tragic accident.
The Chimborazo, Quizhpe and the Chimborazo families all reside in Chicago. Mayancela said family members are now in Indiana.
Funeral arrangements for those who died are pending.
Police say the driver of the semi tractor-trailer, 24-year-old- Jesse Donovan, from Rhode Island, was treated for injuries and later released from the hospital. He is not expected to face charges.
The stretch of Interstate 80/94 near Bristol, Indiana, has been the scene of more than two dozen deadly accidents in the last six years:
- In October 2008, one person was seriously injured when a semi collided with a tanker truck. Authorities said slick roads from freshly fallen snow was partially to blame for the crash.
- In April 2007, a semi was blamed in a chain reaction crash that claimed eight lives. Four vehicles and three semis were involved in the pileup. Traffic had slowed down because of a construction project in the area when the semi plowed into the vehicles.
- A family of four from Naperville was killed in a fiery crash back in August 2006. Once again, a semi plowed into a line of vehicles stopped in a construction zone. One other person was killed that crash as well.
- In May of that same year, a mother traveling with her two young children from Charlotte, North Carolina, died when the SUV they were riding in was struck by a two semis. The children survived the first crash that killed their mother, but they died when the SUV was struck by a second semi.