By Ashley Rueff
1:02 PM AKST, December 18, 2012
A single-vehicle crash that took the life of a southwest suburban teen in September has resulted in criminal charges against the driver, who was 16 years old at the time, officials said.
The driver has been charged with reckless homicide, reckless driving and aggravated reckless driving in connection with the Sept. 25 crash in Homer Glen that resulted in the death of Jay Vana, 16, of Homer Glen.
Charles Pelkie, spokesman for the Will County State’s Attorney’s office, did not release the name of the driver because he is being charged as a juvenile. The driver is from Lockport and now 17.
Pelkie said the charges were filed Friday. The reckless homicide charge is a Class 3 felony and, if convicted, the driver could be placed in juvenile detention for anywhere between two years and up to his 21st birthday.
Pelkie said the charges allege that Vana was not wearing his seatbelt at the time of the crash and that the driver was exceeding the speed limit of 35 mph.
According to the sheriff’s office, deputies were called to the area of Lauffer and Haas Roads in Homer Glen at 8:38 p.m. Sept. 25.
The driver was in a red Ford F-150 when he lost control, said sheriff’s spokeswoman Kathy Hoffmeyer. The truck flipped and struck a tree, ejecting both teens. When emergency crews arrived, Vana was found beneath the vehicle. Both were transported to Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox where Vana was pronounced dead.
The surviving teen told police that he lost control of the vehicle when he swerved to avoid deer in the roadway. Hoffmeyer said subsequent interviews with two other teens who had been dropped off by the driver before the accident said the roadway where the crash occurred is known to them as a good place to race vehicles because there are few spots where police can park along the road.
Toxicology results on the driver came back clear after the crash, police said.
Also on Friday, Vana’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the driver in Will County, according to court records.
The driver is scheduled to appear in juvenile court at the River Valley Justice Center in Joliet at 9 a.m. Thursday Dec. 20.