PORTAGE, Ind. (WLS) -- A teacher at Chesterton Middle School was killed in a car crash Tuesday afternoon, Portage police said.
Police said at about 5:45 p.m. they were called to the intersection of Willowcreek Road and Lute Road for a six-vehicle crash.
Police said their initial investigation showed a gray 2016 Cadillac SUV was speeding south on Willowcreek Road when it struck the back of a white GMC SUV which was stopped two cars back from the red light at Lute Road.
The Cadillac struck the GMC with such force that the GMC was shoved into the rear of a third vehicle and all three vehicles were pushed completely through the intersection and stopped on the south side of Lute Road.
In the aftermath of this first crash, three other vehicles driving either on Lute or northbound on Willowcreek were involved in secondary crashes with the first three cars. One of these vehicles flipped onto its roof and another came to rest on top of the Cadillac, police said.
Police said they found one person dead, another person alive but unconscious and trapped in their vehicle, and a third person with minor head injuries. Other drivers and passengers involved in the crash complained of some pain but did not want to go to the hospital for treatment.
The driver with the head injury was taken to a local hospital and is expected to recover. The driver of the Cadillac was extricated from their vehicle and taken via helicopter to a local hospital for treatment of serious head and internal injuries. He has only been identified as a 42-year-old Portage man, according to police.
The driver of the GMC was pronounced dead at the scene. She has been identified as 24-year-old Lauren Thompson of Valparaiso by officials at Chesterton Middle School.
"Lauren was a shining star on the CMS faculty and was loved by her students and fellow staff members," Principal Mike Hamacher said. "This is a great loss to our students, faculty, and staff members."
"She was one of the few teachers that treated me as a person," said student Finnegan Dailey.
"I loved seeing her, and she almost always brought a smile to my face and really everybody else's," said Maddie Dailey, student.
Thompson taught English at the school and graduated from Purdue University Northwest in 2020, according to her staff bio on the school's website.
"We are devastated. Our prayers go out to her husband and family. It is with great sorrow that we provide support and comfort to our students and staff," said Duneland School Corporation Superintendent Chip Pettit.
Thompson's mother-in-law said her son heard there had been a crash in Portage, and Lauren was not home yet.
"I think she wasn't answering her phone so he drove to the scene," Paula Thompson said. "He saw her car. They'd already put a tarp over it so they wouldn't let him go near."
Lauren and Tyler Thompson had been married just four months.
"I don't think he's processed it yet. He's only 27 and she's turning 25 on December 3rd," Paula Thompson said.
A vigil was held at a Chesterton church Wednesday night, where Thompson's students consoled her family and her family consoled her students in a loop of unexpected grief.
An investigation is ongoing to find out why the driver who caused the crash was driving so fast and if he will be charged.