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7 dead, including 5 children, in fiery wrong-way crash on I-90 in McHenry County

Memorial planned for woman, five children in I-90 crash
Memorial planned for woman, five children in I-90 crash 02:14

RILEY, Ill. (CBS) – A mother and her four kids – as well as another teenager in the car with them – were all killed over the weekend in a crash on Interstate 90 in a rural area of McHenry County.

Their father was still fighting for his life Monday.

As CBS 2's Marissa Perlman reported, family and friends of the young mother – 31-year-old Lauren Dobosz – gathered Monday afternoon in Oriole Park, at 5500 N. Olcott Ave. on the Far Northwest Side of Chicago. They embraced in mourning before releasing balloons into the air.

Family killed in fiery, wrong-way crash identified; father still in serious condition 02:05

Dobosz, 31, was a mom of four, a devoted cheerleading coach and wife. She was killed alongside her children – 13-year-old Emma, 8-year-old Lucas, 7-year-old Nicky, and 5-year-old Ella. Another 13-year-old girl who was in the car at the time also died – she was identified by friends as Katriona Koziara, known as Kat.

Family Photo, via Facebook

The multi-vehicle crash happened around 2 a.m. Sunday in the westbound lanes of the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway, near milepost 33.5 and the unincorporated community of Riley. The rural area is located between Hampshire and Marengo.

Police said a car headed east in the westbound lanes struck the family's van head-on, causing both vehicles to become engulfed in flames.

Lauren's husband, Tom, was driving. He was airlifted to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood in serious condition – the only survivor of the crash. 

The wrong way driver, 22-year-old Jennifer Fernandez, also died. 

7 killed, including 5 children, in wrong-way crash in McHenry County 01:49

Community Consolidated School District 15 reported all four of the Dobosz children – and the fifth child who died – attended Central Road Elementary School and Carl Sandburg Junior High School – both in Rolling Meadows.

The school district released little further information, but Supt. Dr. Laurie Heinz wrote that she would meet with a clinician team and school principals to ensure support is available for students struggling with the tragedy. Heinz also referred parents to an online resource for helping children cope with death and grieving.

All of the Dobosz kids participated in either Falcon Football or cheerleading at Oriole Park. Lauren was a cheerleading coach and Tom helped out with the football team.

Oriole Park was a second home for the Dobosz family.

Luis Hernandez, a longtime family friend, said the Dobosz family was headed back from a family vacation to Minnesota, which they take every year. Hernandez said he remembers the last moments with the eldest daughter of the family – giving her a final hug.

He said the community will pray for a family who no longer can.

"I held Emma, the 13-year-old, Friday before she left too. And they were sweet kids – you know, just gave me a big hug – and you know, I said - like every other conversation – I said, 'See you next week for practice,'" Hernandez said. "Little did I know it would be the last time I would see them in the physical form."

David Moreno, who has known the Dobosz family for 10 years, lives across the street in Rolling Meadows, where toys still lay scattered by the garage Sunday. Those toys will never be used again.   

"We're used to seeing all those kids riding their bikes up and down the street and then their parents yelling at them to be careful, to slow down and all that. And to think you won't have that anymore, you're going to miss things like that," said Moreno. "Kind of hits harder, you know, in a different way."

Devastated neighbors continued to arrive at the family home in Rolling Meadows Monday to pay their respects.

"It's just so sad," said neighbor Jean Petryniec. "I pray for the family. I pray for the remaining relatives. And how does the poor father get through this?"

We also spoke with one of Lauren Dobosz's coworkers at Lulu's – where she had just started working a few months ago. In the short time Kenny Felten knew Lauren, he said he was aware that her family – her kids – were her world.

"She was always happy; in a good mood," Felten said. "She loved her family. She loved her husband and kids. She loved being a part of her extracurricular activities. She was very involved in the cheerleading program. She was very involved with the football program."

Meantime, the coaches of the cheerleading squad plan an emergency team meeting on Monday to figure out how they can offer grief support to the cheerleaders, and find a path forward. They're also organizing a fundraiser for Tom Dobosz as he recovers.

The City of Rolling Meadows Hope Fund is also accepting donations for the victims' families in this GoFundMe.

5 children 2 adults killed in fiery, wrong-way crash on I-90 in McHenry County 01:38
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