WHEELING, Ill. (WLS) -- Four Buffalo Grove High School students were killed and three other people injured in a multi-vehicle crash in Wheeling Tuesday night, police and the school district said.
The crash involving three vehicles occurred at about 10:19 p.m. at Dundee and Schoenbeck roads, police said.
Seven people were transported to hospitals and four of them, all teens from ages to 16-18, were killed, police said. The teens were in the same vehicle, police said.
Three of the victims have been identified to the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office as18-year-old Richard De-Ita, 17-year-old Kevin Hernandez-Teran and 16-year-old Jesus Rodriguez of Wheeling. The fourth victim was identified to the Lake County Coroner's Office as 17-year-old Ricky Barcenas, of Arlington Heights.
Police said a fifth person was in the vehicle, who survived but was seriously injured.
"I told them it was a mistake," said Claudia Gallardo, mother of Jesus Rodriguez, in Spanish. "My son wouldn't leave me without saying goodbye. But it was him."
Speaking from their Wheeling home, the family said the teens were heading home from an evening out. Rodriguez's sister Angie was in the car behind them. She said they had visited her at work.
"The transmission exploded and I got out. I got out of my car and ran, and started yelling his name. I couldn't get a response, it was dark," Angie said. "I went to the wrong car. I tried looking for him. I saw the car was completely destroyed. I saw his friends in the back of the car."
Relatives said Barcenas was a junior honor student with a 3.9 GPA. He played soccer for Buffalo Grove and was earning money for college to study engineering.
"He had a part time job at Portillo's, and he was already saving up for his college. We were talking about it and planning for college and where he wanted to go. He wanted to go into engineering," said his mother Brenda Lorenzo. "Why my son? Why him? He was such a responsible boy. I was waiting for him to come home."
Police said the driver of the SUV the students were in ran a red light shortly after 10 p.m. In doing so, the vehicle collided with two others. Police also said speed was a factor in the crash.
A spokesperson for High School District 214 said in a statement, "It is with the deepest sorrow that we confirm that four Buffalo Grove High School students were killed, and one student remains hospitalized, in what police are describing as a multi-car crash Tuesday night in Wheeling.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of these students during this time of tragedy. We also offer condolences to all Buffalo Grove students, families and staff members. Names of the students have not been announced publicly out of respect for grieving families during this unimaginably difficult time.
"Buffalo Grove High School is closed today because of a fire last evening. We will, however, be making counselors available as soon as possible to help our school community deal with this tragic loss and will inform students, staff and families directly regarding this."
Students flocked to the crash site to grieve and lay flowers.
"They're the best friends I've ever had. They're funny. We have the same humor. They're always there for you. They're what friends are supposed to be," said Jael Vieyra, friend.
One witness said one of the vehicles was full of people. One of the cars hit a light pole, causing a power outage in the area. Police said all power has been restored.
Meanwhile, one neighbor heard the accident when it happened.
"Yeah, I was down the street, pretty close to here," John Vinci said. "The bang was loud and hit the light pole and the power went out on this whole block."
The Northwest Suburban Major Case Assistance Team's Serious Traffic Accident Reconstruction unit along with Wheeling Police Crash investigators are investigating. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Wheeling Police Department at 847-459-2632.