Lake County coroner's van stock

A Lake County coroner’s van

The Times

MERRILLVILLE — The Lake County Coroner's office has identified the woman who died in a fiery crash in the early morning hours of New Year's Eve as Kayla Nelson, 23, of Oak Park, Illinois. 

Merrillville police and fire officials were dispatched about 3:15 a.m. Sunday for a report of a car crash near Independence Park in the 3000 block of West 73rd Avenue. 

Nelson was one of three passengers in a Lexus SUV when it left the roadway and struck a tree on the north side of 73rd Avenue. The car became "engulfed in flames," according to a Merrillville Police Department news release. 

Nelson died from blunt force trauma in the car crash. She was pronounced dead at 3:55 a.m. at the scene. The driver and other passengers, all male, were transported to hospitals with life-threatening injuries. 

Merrillville police and fire, Schererville emergency personnel and the coroner's office all assisted at the scene. 

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Public safety reporter

Lauren covers breaking news, crime and courts for The Times. She previously worked at The Herald-News in Joliet covering government, public policy, and the region’s heroin epidemic. She holds a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting.