Lab School student killed on spring break bike trip

Faith Dremmer

March 25, 2010 3:19:50 PM PDT
A bicycle accident in downstate Illinois killed a 17-year-old girl from Chicago. Two of her friends were injured when they were all struck by a van.

Faith Dremmer was a senior at the University of Chicago Lab School. She and two classmates were celebrating their senior year with a bike trip on spring break. They were struck Wednesday in downstate Shawneetown, about 100 miles southeast of Evansville, Indiana.

The tragedy has rocked the close-knit community of the University of Chicago Lab School. Although the school is out on spring break, and students aren't set to return until Monday, grief counselors have already reached out to its 115 students and their families who make up the senior class to help them cope with the lost of one of their classmates.

Dremmer's friends Julia Baird and Kaia Tammen were seriously injured.

"This trip of hope and celebration has turned into a terrible tragedy," said Julie Peterson, University of Chicago spokesperson.

The journey by the three close friends had been planned for months to celebrate their upcoming high school graduation. An entry posted just days ago on what appears to be Julia's Facebook page expresses the excitement the trio felt and reads, "3 friends, 3 bikes, 500 miles, let's do this."

One of the girls' fathers says the three left on Saturday and followed a daily routine. Julia Baird's father drove in his car carrying their gear, and after they finished riding for the day, he caught up with them and they set up camp for the night.

But Wednesday afternoon around 2, as the group rode near the southern Illinois town of Shawneetown, a minivan driven by an 86-year-old man crossed the center line and hit all three girls.

"Faith was an amazing wonderful gift and child. She was very strong, athletic, and academics. she loved life," said Darlene Fridstein, Dremmer family friend.

Baird, who was airlifted to an Evansville hospital, suffered a broken collar bone and broken ribs.

Friends say Tammen went through 4 1/2 hours of surgery and was scheduled to undergo more after she suffered significant injuries to her head. All three girls were wearing helmets.

The driver of the van, an Enfield, Illinois, resident was not hurt.

Faith Dremmer lived with her mother in Lincoln Park and is being remembered as active in her school, playing tennis and excelling in math and science.

"We cannot wait until Julia and Kaia are back. We will miss Faith. She was one of the beacons of goodness and dignity and determination," said Patty Rust Kovacs, school counselor.

According to the Illinois Secretary of State, the driver involved in the crash has a clean driving record and last renewed his license in November 2008.

A funeral service for Faith Dremmer is scheduled for Sunday morning.