Two SIU students from Chicago area killed in downstate crash

The communities of Park Ridge and Des Plaines are mourning the loss of two Southern Illinois University students who tragically died in a head-on collision in Carbondale early Monday morning.

Main East High School staff and students are grappling with the devastating news, particularly the loss of 19-year-old Wolfgang Gustaveson from Park Ridge, a distinguished honor roll student actively involved in automotives, cybersecurity, and the gifted Lyceum education program.

According to authorities, Gustaveson and his fellow SIU student, 18-year-old Frank Martinez of Des Plaines, were inside a truck when it collided with another vehicle around 7:30 a.m. along Highway 51. Both students were pronounced dead at the scene.

The pair were believed to be heading to class when the crash occurred.

Frank Martinez (Provided)

"Those two ride together. They were lab partners and work together day in and out of class," said SIU professor William Ellis.

Both Gustaveson and Marinez were enrolled in SIU's automotive services program. Gustaveson's former teachers expressed their heartbreak over the tragic incident, remembering him as a student who was actively pursuing his dreams at SIUE.

"It definitely breaks our heart. It was a tough thing to learn today. Wolf was chasing his dreams. Talked to him on Friday, he was loving SIU. He was calling me up to see how to fix a car problem he had, and he just couldn't tell me enough about the school, his friends, everything he was doing, loving the instructors. So he was chasing his dreams, and I'm proud of him," said one of the teachers.

Martinez was described as quiet, but eager to learn and passionate about automotives.

Details surrounding the exact cause of the accident remain unclear, and the driver of the second vehicle sustained serious injuries.

SIU released the following statement on Monday:

Dear fellow Salukis:

We are brokenhearted to lose two members of the Saluki family, Wolfgang Gustaveson and Frank Martinez, in an auto accident this morning, and we extend our deepest condolences to their families and friends. Both students were majoring in automotive technology. Classes in automotive technology are canceled today.

Mental health counseling is available from Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) by calling 618-453-5371. As we mourn this loss in our community, we will keep Wolfgang’s and Frank’s families and friends in our thoughts and prayers.