4 teens die after car lands in creek
By Brian Stanley and Janet Lundquist Sun-Times Media March 12, 2013 8:54PM
Updated: April 14, 2013 6:49AM
When Micalah Sembach wasn’t home by 5 p.m. Monday, her parents sent her a text message.
“If you don’t call me back in five minutes, I’m calling the police,” the message read, according to Rita Johns of Plainfield, Micalah’s godmother.
They didn’t hear from her, and they called the police.
Friends and family spent the night searching for the 15-year-old Wilmington High School freshman, keeping in touch by text message and posting updates on Facebook.
On Tuesday morning, Johns saw speeding emergency vehicles and followed them to a crash site at Forked Creek near Wilmington. Her goddaughter was one of four Wilmington friends who were killed when the car they were in crashed through a guardrail Monday night on Ballou Road and landed upside down in the creek.
“I’m hoping to wake up from this nightmare,” Johns said Tuesday, standing outside the Sembachs’ house on Kankakee Street.
“She was a super kid,” said Micalah’s father, Mike Sembach. “She was well-behaved.”
The other victims were Cody Carter, 15; Matthew Bailey, 14, and Cheyenne Fender, 17, according to the Will County coroner’s office. All four teens drowned, Coroner Patrick K. O’Neil said Tuesday afternoon. Toxicology results won’t be back for two to three weeks, he said.
Wilmington Police received a report that the teens were missing about midnight Monday, Will County Sheriff’s Deputy Chief Ken Kaupas said at news conference Tuesday. About 7:20 a.m. Tuesday, a school bus driver and students noticed a damaged guardrail on Ballou Road and saw the back wheel of a car sticking up in the creek. The crash site was about a quarter of a mile west of Warner Bridge Road.
Dive teams from local fire departments confirmed that the car was the 2001 Mitsubishi Eclipse registered to a relative of one of the victims. Authorities did not say who owned the car or who was driving.
“There is water on the roadway that has receded even since last night that could’ve been a factor” in the crash, Kaupas noted.
Divers found all of the windows rolled up and all of the teens inside the car, Kaupas said. .
By 10 a.m., the car had been removed.
As the south guardrail was pulled from the creek at 2:30 p.m., four crosses with the victims’ names were being put up nearby.
Within minutes, an orange ball cap was placed on Matthew’s cross; stuffed animals were at the crosses for Micahal and Cody, and an angel pendant was at Cheyenne’s cross.
Lauren Wright, a sophomore at Wilmington High School, said that she grew up with all four of the teens. She said the school made an announcement about the crash at lunchtime and held a moment of silence in honor of the victims.
“It was really sad, and everyone was quiet at school,” she said.
Stephen Lapinsky said he had been dating Micalah for a year. He met her at the high school, where she played the oboe in the marching band and was a color guard. She enjoyed science classes and planned to become a biologist.
“Micalah was her own special brand of weirdness,” he said.
Jeanna Andrus, whose daughter grew up with Micalah, said Micalah had left the house at 4 p.m. and was expected home by 5 p.m.
“Her mom called the police at 5:30 because she was the kind of kid that if [they] didn’t hear from her, they knew something was wrong,” Andrus said.
Wilmington Mayor Marty Orr’s voice wavered as he talked about the teens. He said he knew some of them personally. In a small town like Wilmington, he said, everyone probably knew them.
“These kids have touched everybody’s life in some way,” Orr said. “We’ll cope. That’s the beauty of Wilmington. We’ll lean on each other, we’ll get through this.”
Contributing: Cindy Cain, Casey Toner