PLAINFIELD, Ill. (WLS) --A family is mourning after a 9-year-old girl was killed and a 53-year-old man was seriously injured in an ATV accident in southwest suburban Plainfield.
Officers responded to an ATV that had gone off an asphalt path and into the grass in the area of Ridge Road between 135th Street and Plainfield Road on Tuesday evening.
The ATV had plummeted into a rock-filled drainage ditch. The area makes the spot where the pavement runs out, and crews placed a sign Wednesday morning as a warning. The sign was not in place last night.
Shortly after the path ends, a culvert suddenly dips several feet. Family members believe the driver of the ATV may not have seen the culvert until it was too late.
The girl, identified as Alexis Richardson, was a passenger on the ATV. She was thrown from the vehicle, suffering internal injuries.
"She's just an adorable, adorable little girls. And we are going to miss her," said Ronald Richardson, grandfather.
Richardson, 9, wasn't breathing when she was found. Officers called for paramedics and performed CPR on her while they waited for help to arrive.
"Obviously in a crash like that when you're thrown from an ATV, especially at that age, you will have trauma to most of your body," said Sergeant Mike Fisher, Plainfield Police Department.
Richardson was airlifted to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, where she was pronounced dead at 11:49 p.m., the Cook County medical examiner's office said. The man, who was driving the ATV, was transported to Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora with serious injuries. Police said the two victims are related, but did not disclose the exact relationship.
Police say she was wearing a helmet, but it failed to protect her and came off her head due to the force of the crash.
"It was a large helmet. Doesn't look like it was designed for a child," Fisher said.
Police say it's illegal to drive an ATV on the pavement, but that's one of the few laws regulating ATVs in Illinois. Some safety experts say Illinois lags behind many other states in regulating ATVs. The victim's relatives are hoping others may learn from their loss.
"It's a horrible thing. I miss my granddaughter already. I hope that others will heed this and be more careful in all terrain vehicles," said the girl's grandfather.
Following the tragedy, first responders spent most of the night speaking to counselors.
"If you're on the job for a while, not much bothers you. But this is one of the things that still bothers you," Fisher said.
Richardson attended Grande Park Elementary School in Plainfield. Community Unit School District #308 extended its sympathy to Richardson's friends and family in a statement that read, in part: "We are all deeply affected by the tragic loss of this delightful student. Alexis will be remembered as a happy, bubbly, and caring young girl that did whatever she could to make others smile. She was truly a bright and talented student in her classroom, loved school and enjoyed being with her friends."
Investigators said the 53-year-old man could face charges, anywhere from a traffic violation to involuntary manslaughter. It is illegal to drive an ATV on the sidewalk and streets in Plainfield.
Richardson's family set up a GoFundMe account to raise money to help cover funeral expenses. To make a donation, visit www.gofundme.com.