Sarah Sanaghan was 11 when she saw her twin sister and two friends killed by a hit-and-run driver in Crete in the mid-1990s. She was struck by the mirror of the car but narrowly survived, though friends and relatives said she always grieved the three girls who died.
Nearly 18 years later — some 500 yards from that same site — Sanaghan was killed early Thursday after her car collided with a tanker truck at Illinois Route 394 and Burville Road.
Illinois State Police say Sanaghan was heading west on Burville when she drove a Chevy Cruze in front of the tanker truck heading south on Illinois 394. The truck struck a light pole before rolling onto its side in a ditch, but the driver was not seriously injured.
Sanaghan, a 29-year-old nurse and mother in Dyer, Ind., sustained blunt force head trauma, according to the coroner’s office in Lake County, Ind., where she was pronounced dead. The investigation into the crash is ongoing, State Police said.
It was not clear to the Tribune where she was headed at the time of Thursday’s crash. But her route would have taken her past Plum Creek Bridge on Burville Road, where she, her twin sister, Cari, and friends Courtney Lauer, Sheena Acres, and a boy were walking just before midnight on May 26, 1996. The girls had sneaked out of the house during a sleepover at the twins’ home.
Cari, 11, Courtney, 12, and Sheena, 12, were killed and the boy, 13, was hospitalized with broken bones. They were hit by a neighbor who was later convicted and sentenced to 21/2 years in prison for leaving the scene.
“We do not want to relive this again,” Sarah Sanaghan’s stepmother, Elizabeth Sanaghan, said Friday.
Cori Bulatovich said she had gone out for sushi with her friend Sarah Sanaghan and Sanaghan’s son, 11-year-old Elijah, the night before Thursday’s crash.
“We were laughing,” recalled Bulatovich, 36, of Portage, Ind. “Elijah was cracking jokes. We were talking about good times.”
Bulatovich said her friend was particularly happy about a new job prospect.
“She sparkled everywhere she went,” Bulatovich said.
Friend David Lutes, 48, said Sanaghan also dabbled in singing and playing guitar. He recalled how she would talk about life as “an adventure.”
“She used that term a lot, to be on an ‘adventure’,” Lutes said.
Friend Niki Capretti, 32, described Sanaghan as an amazing mother who considered her son “her whole world.”
Capretti said she met Sanaghan when she was about 16; they bonded when they realized both had a sibling die at about the same time: Capretti’s brother died of Hodgkin disease when she was 11.
“She was one of my best friends,” said Capretti. “That was the bond between me and Sarah. … We became so close because she lost her twin and I lost my brother when I was young. I got to really know who she was, I was there for her. Unfortunately a tragedy brought us together.”
Crete-area resident Lori Loya said her son and Sanaghan were in grade school together, and Loya said she spoke with Sanaghan just last month. Recalling the 1996 crash, Loya said Sarah Sanaghan at first blamed herself.
“It took her a long time to get over it,” Loya said.
Cari and Sarah shared a bedroom before the accident, their mother, Cynthia Sanaghan, told the Tribune in 1996. Cari’s possessions were removed after she died, but Sarah never expanded into her sister’s space. She moved her bedroom into the attic.
“We’re moving on, but it’s different. There’s no little girl in (Sarah) anymore,” the mother said. “Sheena (Acres) was Sarah’s best friend, and she doesn’t have another one. She’s floating.”
Cynthia and Sarah Sanaghan testified in the trial of the driver, Richard Devon. He lived just a few doors down from the Sanaghans but fled the scene. He was arrested a few days after the crash following a highly publicized manhunt.
The Sanaghans went on to help pass state legislation in the mid-1990s that made leaving the scene of an accident involving injury or death a more serious crime, punishable by 3 to 14 years in prison.
Loya described Sara Sanaghan more recently as a very upbeat, beautiful girl with many friends.
Source: Chicago Tribune