Loved ones of the Dobosz family left flowers, candles and stuffed animals around a tree in their front yard Monday, creating a small memorial a day after the family was struck in a head-on collision on I-90, killing the mother, her four children and another child who was traveling with them.
Only the father, Thomas Dobosz, 32, survived the fiery crash in the overnight hours of Sunday when a gray Acura TSX sedan, driven by Jennifer Fernandez, 22, of Carpentersville, was going the wrong way on the interstate and collided with the Chevrolet van Dobosz was driving.
Lauren Dobosz, 31, and their four children — daughters, 13 and 5, and sons, 7 and 6 — all died at the scene. Another girl, also 13, died in the crash, according to Illinois State Police.
Thomas Dobosz was airlifted to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood with severe injuries.
As news of the crash spread Monday, the memorial grew in front of the family’s Rolling Meadows home.
A neighbor, Anna Lisowski, 39, brought her two kids to drop off pink and white roses.
“You never know when things might come to an end,” she said as she hugged her son. “It’s very important you treasure each day with your family and make sure you tell them you love them.”
Both Lauren and Thomas were deeply involved in their children’s cheerleading and football teams, the Oriole Park Falcons. Lauren coached cheerleading while Thomas served as director of concessions. Several photos posted to their social media accounts paint a picture of a beloved and spirited family often sporting Falcons merch and the team’s colors — black and red.
“It would take a lifetime to truly honor them for the people they were,” a tribute on a public Facebook group for the teams read on Monday. “The love they gave to everyone they met. Always there to help no questions asked. Loyal to the core! Qualities that are rare in this world today.”
Family friend and neighbor, Charlotte Rybarczyk, 58, lives two doors down from the Dobosz family’s house. Her kids grew up playing with Lauren, the mother. She babysat the young Dobosz kids, who she says were spitting images of their mom.
The kids loved to ride their bikes, Rybarczyk said. They’d walk over to ask her what she was doing as she gardened. She heard them splashing and giggling in the plastic pool Tom would set out every summer.
“Just energy. They were happy, always happy and perky,” she said.
When another neighbor called to tell Rybarczyk about the accident, she first felt disbelief. It was just too sad, she said.
“It’s hard to look there and know that they’re not going to come running down the driveway,” Rybarczyk said. Neighbors will miss that daily burst of brightness, she said.
A GoFundMe page set up to help cover the family’s funeral expenses was verified by the platform, a company spokesperson said.
Chicago Tribune reporters Katherine Rosenberg-Douglas and Tatyana Turner contributed.
Check back for updates.