2 SIU-Carbondale students from Chicago suburbs killed in downstate crash

19-year-old Wolf Gustaveson, 18-year-old Frank Martinez were automotive technology majors

ByCate Cauguiran and ABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Monday, December 4, 2023
SIU students from Chicago suburbs killed in downstate crash
Wolf Gustaveson of Park Ridge and Francis Martinez of Des Plaines were killed in a Carbondale, Illinois truck crash Monday.

CARBONDALE, Ill. (WLS) -- Two Southern Illinois University students from the Chicago suburbs died Monday morning in a truck crash downstate, Carbondale police said.

One of those victims, 19-year-old Wolf Gustaveson, will be remembered for what he built.

At Maine East High School, the Park Ridge native helped to build a racing car, strong relationships with his teachers and friends and a lasting legacy in his short time alive.

"Wolf loved any challenge that he could take on. That's what he really embraced," said Wolf's former teacher, Ken Adkins.

Wolf never found a problem he didn't want to fix.

"He was so enthusiastic about everything he did, was so smart, loved mechanics, loved auto motives, loved cars, fixing them. Anything he could fix, he would fix," said Liv Owens, Wolf's former girlfriend.

To Wolf, problems were simply pathways to a better solution.

"He was going to be, and he should be a success story. He is talented. He is smart. He is the kind of person that walks into a room and gets along with everybody," Adkin said.

Wolf was a builder. If there was a connection to be made, he would serve as the bridge.

"He had so many connections across student groups. He was an athlete; he played baseball. He was huge into auto motives. He was in the gifted learning program," said William Greenwald, Wolf's former teacher.

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The 19-year-old Park Ridge native was one of two Southern Illinois University students killed Monday morning in a head-on crash in Carbondale.

Police said the crash happened sometime before 7:45 a.m. in the 1500-block of North Illinois Avenue. Two trucks crashed near a school bus, according to police.

The sole occupant of the southbound vehicle suffered serious injuries, and was taken to Memorial Hospital of Carbondale.

The SIU students were in the northbound vehicle, and were pronounced dead on the scene as a result of the crash, police said. The other student who died, also from the Chicago area, was 18-year-old Frank Martinez.

Wolf's former teachers at Maine East High School are remembering the standout student.

"It's very difficult to look around the classroom and teach a normal classroom as you hear that one of the best kids that you had, has passed," Greenwald said.

Adkins recalled a conversation he had with Wolf just days before he died.

"He was like, 'I followed my dreams, I followed my success, and this is what I want to be doing. I am so excited to be here. I can't believe my dreams are coming true,'" Adkins said.

"People are gonna remember him for how kind he was. He was genuinely one of the sweetest people I've ever met," said Abby Gricius, Wolf's friend.

The problem his loved ones are left with now is a world without Wolf to fix it, and world where logic can't be found in his loss.

"I know he was a well-loved kid, and he loved a lot of people, and I think across the spectrum, people are crushed by this," Greenwald said.

SIU put out a statement, saying the university is brokenhearted to have lost two members of their family.

"The City of Carbondale is extremely sorry for the loss of these young men, and extends our deepest sympathy to their families and loved ones," officials added.

The City of Carbondale is extremely sorry for the loss of these young men

Both students killed were automotive technology majors.

Anyone with information on the crash is asked to call Carbondale police at (618) 549-2121, Carbondale/SIU Crime Stoppers at (618) 549-COPS (2677) or the Murphysboro/Jackson County anonymous tip line at (618) 687-COPS (2677).