Community comes together to remember 3 young women who died in I -

Community comes together to remember 3 young women who died in I-55 crash

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Madisen Bertles (left), 20-year-old Tori Carroll (center) and 20-year-old Hailey Bertles (right) Madisen Bertles (left), 20-year-old Tori Carroll (center) and 20-year-old Hailey Bertles (right)

STAUNTON, Il. ( --  A fourth victim of the eight-vehicle crash involving a tractor-trailer on Interstate 55 in Hamel, Illinois has died, according to Illinois State Police.

20-year-old Tori Carroll was with her friends Madisen and Hailey Bertels, 17 and 20 respectively. when the truck crashed into their vehicle.

All three passed away, and Thursday night, their community is coming together to remember them.

A vigil was held Thursday night at the Saint Paul United Church of Christ on Laurel Street in Staunton, an Illinois town of about 6,000 residents.  

At the vigil, many shared their memories of the three.

"It's very difficult to understand why it's happened. There are no answers as to why it happened, don't think God decided I'm going to take these young people from our midsts," said Rev. Debbie Jo Atkins with the St. Paul United Church of Christ.

The deaths of the three young women have had a profound impact on the community.    

The school district has been providing counselors to its students and staff since the crash last week. It is a difficult time for many young students who now have to grapple with death and loss at a  young age, but the community is pulling together.

“We started the school year off with the theme of ‘be the difference,’” Staunton Unit 6 Superintendent Dan Cox said. “Over this week we’ve seen just that. Community, people, businesses, organizations rallied together and displayed acts of kindness that have been touching and very  moving.”

At the local Dairy Queen, a "Blizzard Benefit" bucket still sits on the counter accepting donations. Manager Art Oppermann previously announced all the money the DQ brought in from selling Blizzards Wednesday would be donated to the families of the victims.    

Cars were backed up waiting to get into the parking lot Wednesday night.

“Up the road to the left and right of the stop sign, they went into town a little ways,” Oppermann said of the backup. “Police came out and started directing traffic for us.”

People came from as far away as Fenton and O'Fallon, Missouri to donate. Oppermann said he's never seen anything like it.

“This is a close-knit community and it affected people a lot, last night speaks to that,” he said. “It also shows the best of Staunton.”

“Small acts of kindness and little things changed the world,” added Cox. “Whoever had that idea last night changed  our little corner of the world.”

The owners of the Dairy Queen, Craig and Lori Kalogerou are credited with the idea.

The fourth person who was killed in the crash was Vivian Vu, a Missouri Southern State University student. She died on Thanksgiving, two days after the crash.

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