A head-on collision on Route 185 two miles west of Coffeen on Saturday evening, Nov. 16, killed four people sending shock waves of grief through Vandalia and its neighboring communities.
Four were pronounced dead at the scene by Montgomery County Coroner Randy Leetham, and a fifth, Michael Jones, a 17-year-old Lincolnwood High School student from Harvel, was taken from the scene by Arch Helicopter with what Illinois State Police called life-threatening injuries.
Killed in the accident were Jackolyn C. Protz, 72, and William H. Protz, 73, both of Sullivan, as well as Jenna Protz and Holly Lidy, both 14 and both from Vandalia. Mr. and Mrs. Protz are the parents of Vandalia Community High School Principal Randy Protz; Jenna Protz is his daughter and Lidy is her friend.
According to Illinois State Police, a 2016 Ford F-150 pickup truck driven by the Harvel 17-year-old was westbound on Route 185 near East 14th Road and crossed the center line at 6:21 p.m.
The truck collided head-on with an eastbound 2010 Toyota Sienna driven by Mrs. Protz. Her husband and both 14-year-old girls were passengers in the vehicle.
The Illinois State Police traffic crash reconstruction unit continues to investigate the accident.
After the accident, Hough Funeral Home was open for members of the Protz family to assemble, and a vigil began at 4 p.m. Sunday at Vandalia Community High School.
According to a release issued by the Vandalia superintendent's office on Sunday, "our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of two beautiful young women, two of our VCHS freshman students, Holly Lidy and Jenna Protz, who were fatally injured in the accident. We also lost two dearly beloved grandparents and Vandal fans, the parents of Mr. Randy Protz. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Lidy and Protz family."
The school district has activated its crisis counseling team to be at schools, and will meet with staff to help them prepare to assist students.