ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) – BackStoppers is assisting the family of a St. Louis County police officer who was one of two people killed in a crash late last week in Illinois.
The crash happened around 11 p.m. Thursday on Route 159 north of Hecker, Illinois. According to the Illinois State Police Department, a Hyundai Sonata was passing a semi-truck heading northbound when it collided with a Dodge Caravan head-on. The Hyundai then reportedly spun back into the northbound lanes and was hit by the semi-truck.
According to police, the off-duty officer in the Dodge Caravan and a passenger in the Hyundai Sonata were rushed to a hospital. Both later died from their injuries. St. Louis County police identified the off-duty officer as 49-year-old James M. Ellis Jr. from Hecker.
Ellis was reportedly returning home from work when the crash occurred.
Monday, BackStoppers announced they would be assisting Ellis' family. The organization said they give families of first responders a check for $10,000 with the assurance for further help. BackStoppers said they plan to talk with Ellis' family in the upcoming weeks to identify their financial obligations. The goal of BackStoppers is to make the family debt-free.
Ellis worked patrol in Jennings and is survived by a wife and five children. Ellis joined the police department in 2011 and also worked in Affton and Central County. He earned a Lifesaving Award for performing CPR on a man in August 2012.
"He was a valued member of the police department," St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said. "And I guess more than anything else I would want you to know is that his life was really emblematic of service."
Ellis was an active duty Marine from November 1992-August 1996. He enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve from 2001-2005 and was deployed to Iraq as a squad leader from January to November 2004.
"On behalf of the entire Department, I wish to express our sorrow and sympathy over the tragic death of Officer Mitch Ellis," Chief Belmar said. "Our hearts and deepest condolences go out to his family and friends. Officer Ellis was a dedicated police officer, loyal friend, and devoted family man."
The passenger in the Hyundai was identified as Ariah Claybrone, 24, of Memphis, Tennessee.
The 23-year-old driver of the Hyundai, later identified as Dale Clayborne, 23, of Chicago, was taken to the hospital with serious injuries. The driver of the semi-truck refused medical attention.
News 4’s Justin Andrews was outside of Barnes-Jewish Hospital around 4 a.m. Friday and saw officers from multiple departments, including St. Louis County, Illinois State and St. Louis Metropolitan, outside.