Bridgeview Fourth of July crash victims remembered
By Nick Swedberg Correspondent July 5, 2014 6:06PM
Wooden hearts with the names of four people killed mark the spot of a head-on crash on Friday evening, July 4, 2014, in Bridgeview. | Nick Swedberg/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 7, 2014 6:52AM
Raul Vazquez was on the phone Thursday evening, when he heard the deadly crash happen almost directly in front of the Harlem Avenue apartment building in Bridgeview where he lives.
Along with several neighbors, he bolted to the crash scene to help. Vazquez said he helped pull a teenage boy from the mangled pickup.
Neighbors said the Camaro had caught fire and were concerned about getting the boy to safety. The son of a resident at the nearby Bridgeview Health Care Center cut the boy’s seat belt.
After freeing the teenager, Vazquez tried to help the others still trapped in the cars.
“But, it was too late,” he said.” They were dead already.”
Four adults were killed in the two-car crash at about 5:30 p.m. Friday in the 8200 block of Harlem Avenue.
Aiman Salem, 21, of Worth and Alaa Mustafa Alkhatib, 24, of Palos Hills, were in a 2010 Chevrolet Camaro that collided head-on with a pickup truck driven by Hector Gonzalez, 48, of Chicago. Fifty-two-year-old Maria Gonzalez, of Chicago, also was killed in the crash.
The teenage boy who was pulled from the pickup was taken to Advocate Christ Hospital to be treated for what authorities said were non-life-threatening injuries.
All four adults were pronounced dead at the scene.
The teenager appeared to have suffered leg injuries and was struggling to walk when neighbors helped him from the pickup truck, witnesses said. Residents who live along that stretch of Harlem Avenue rushed to the crash Friday evening.
Lorie Heklowski, 43, was attending a Fourth of July BBQ less than one-half block from the crash. She said she heard the Camaro speeding down Harlem and saw debris flying when the vehicles collided.
Heklowski said she helped care for the teenage boy after he was freed from the car until paramedics arrived.
“Someone wanted to move him, but I was telling him to stay down,” she said.
Debbie Heredia, 61, hosted the BBQ and said it appeared that the Camaro was racing another sports car down Harlem Avenue at a high rate of speed when it started fishtailing. It looked like the car was going to skid into a line of cars in the nearby Hawk Chevrolet dealership but, instead, careened into oncoming traffic, she said.
According to Cook County Circuit Court records, Alkhatib was charged with a misdemeanor count of marijuana possession last month and had been scheduled to appear in court in Rolling Meadows in August. In November 2012, he pleaded guilty at the Bridgeview Courthouse to a misdemeanor count of battery and was ordered to six months of court supervision, court records show.
Salem pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of marijuana possession in December 2013 and ordered to a year of court supervision, records show. He also completed a year of supervision after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor battery charge in March 2010, according to court records.
A friend of Salem’s described him as a “regular guy.”
Wasam Qoran, 36, described his younger brother, Salem, as a “hardworking man” who took care of his mother and sister. Salem operated a towing company, and was either working or at a friend’s barbershop, located just down the street from the crash site.
With Salem’s death, Qoran has lost both of his brothers. His older brother, Weam Salem, was 25-years old when he was shot in 2011 during a robbery at a grocery store near 130th Street and Indiana Avenue.
Longtime friend Mo Khatib, 24, of Palos Hills, said the younger Salem was “all about his business” and put long hours in at the towing company. Despite the hard work, Salem always had a smile on his face.
“Every morning, he’d say ‘Early bird gets the worm,” Khatib said.
Mohammad Mohammad, 27, of Palos Hills, describes his younger brother, Alkhatib, in a similar way, saying he was hardworking and affable. He said Alkhatib’s energetic nature helped while he owned and operated his own trucking company.
Despite being the youngest of three brothers, Alkhatib was the the protector of the family.
“He always came to our aid,” Mohammad said.
By 1 a.m., Gonzalez family members brought candles and flowers to the crash scene. Four wooden hearts painted red and printed with the names of the deceased were set up next to a nearby road sign by Saturday morning.
A group of area residents brought flowers to the crash scene Saturday afternoon.
“I can’t get that little boy out of my head,” said Donna McMahon. “He looked so helpless.”
The wakes for Salem and Alkhatib took place at Hann Funeral Home in Bridgeview on Saturday night. The funeral services were scheduled for Sunday at the Bridgeview mosque with interment at Parkholm Cemetery in La Grange Park.
The crash remains under investigation by the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office and the SMART accident reconstruction unit.
Contributing: Evan F. Moore and Sun-Times Media Wire