A 12-year-old Olympia Fields boy has died and three other youths were hospitalized after the four were in a crash involving a car that was apparently speeding and being driven by someone younger than 16, police said.
Almani Creamer was pronounced dead at St. James Hospital, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office. The other three passengers in Wednesday's crash were taken to local hospitals.
Police would not release their ages or genders but described all four occupants as Olympia Fields residents younger than 16, the minimum age for a driver's license in Illinois.
"He was a special little boy," his mother, Regina Anderson, 35, said Thursday afternoon from her home on Corinth Road in Olympia Fields. "I just hope he didn't suffer."
Anderson was about 50 miles from home and fighting rush-hour traffic along the Tri-State Tollway when police called to tell her Almani had been injured. She said she expected to find her son with a broken bone or a concussion.
Almani had been home by himself Wednesday, Anderson said, and not allowed outside as punishment for missing assignments at school. She said she accessed her home's security camera footage with her cellphone and saw a short clip of one of her son's friends stopping by the house around noon.
"I expected to scold him and take him home," she said she was thinking before learning of his death.
Police said the car hit a tree. The news release had no other details on the crash, and police were not available for further comment Thursday.
Anderson said nurses told her that Almani was in the back seat wearing his seat belt during the crash.
The family — including Almani's older brother, 14, and sister, 3 — moved to Olympia Fields about a year ago after living in Dolton and Chicago's Chatham neighborhood.
"I knew it would be safer," she said. "That's what I thought."
Anderson said her son loved basketball but sometimes struggled with his schoolwork.
"He was just a boy," she said. "He's bad some days — he's good some days."
She said police told her little about the circumstances surrounding her son's death, but she spent much of Thanksgiving morning doing her own investigation and talking to people near her home and less than a mile away where the crash took place. She said she still planned on visiting relatives, though.
"Being around anybody makes it a little easier," she said. "It's harder when I'm alone. I'm thinking if I would have stayed home maybe he'd still be here."
As she spoke in her home Thursday afternoon, Anderson sat on the edge of a couch amid a box of photos of her son and Christmas ornaments for the tree that stood incomplete in the corner of the front room. The family planned to decorate the tree after visiting relatives for Thanksgiving festivities, she said.
Immediately after the crash, neighbors rushed to the car and urged its occupants not to move until paramedics arrived, said Anupam Razdan, a Chicago attorney who was visiting his parents across the street.
A girl inside was crying for help, he said.
Police and fire officials arrived quickly and brought the four occupants into ambulances, Razdan said.
Police remained on the scene for hours, and though Razdan only learned hours later that someone had died, he sensed right away the crash had been serious.
"It's just a horrible way to start off a Thanksgiving weekend," he said.
On the block of mostly older homes on Corinth Road, neighbor Beverly Reed Scott spoke fondly of Almani, who lived with his family three houses down from her home.
"He was a fine young man," she recalled, wiping a tear from her eye as she told of a time he politely walked back to pick up a hat her grandson dropped.
"We loved him."
The family was a recent addition to the community described as close-knit by neighbors. But Reed Scott said the young teen "got right into the rhythm of the neighborhood."
"It's a great loss," she said, noting the tragedy occurred the day before Thanksgiving. "We're grateful to have known him for a short time."