CRETE | After losing her twin sister in a hit-and-run accident nearly 18 years ago, Sarah Sanaghan was killed along the same road Thursday morning.
"I didn't think any family should go through so much pain," said Debbie Halvorson, who as a state senator from Crete worked with Sanaghan's family and others affected by that earlier accident to pass legislation to strengthen hit-and-run laws.
Sanaghan, 29, of Dyer, was killed in a crash at 5:40 a.m. Thursday in the intersection of Burville Road and Ill. 394, Illinois State Police said. Sanaghan, heading west on Burville, was stopped at the intersection when she pulled out in front of a tanker trailer, police said. The truck hit the passenger side of Sanaghan's Chevrolet Cruze.
The truck then crashed into a light pole, rolled on its side and came to a stop in a nearby ditch, police said. Sanaghan was pronounced dead at 6 a.m. at Franciscan St. Margaret Health hospital in Dyer, according to the Lake County coroner's office. She died from blunt force head trauma.
The crash happened close to where Sanaghan lived at the time of a May 27, 1996, accident that haunted her, but did not deter her from growing into a bubbly, caring and giving person who amassed a large circle of friends.
The 1996 accident on Burville Road near Exchange Avenue in Crete took the life of Sanaghan's 11-year-old twin sister, Cari, as well as friends Sheena Acres and Courtney Lauer, both 12.
According to reports at the time, the four girls sneaked away from a slumber party at the Sanaghan home late May 26 to meet Lauer's boyfriend. As the group was walking back, a passing vehicle reportedly swept a bicycle out of the boyfriend's hands and knocked Sarah Sanaghan to the ground. The other three girls were struck and killed.
Friend Cori Bulatovich said Sanaghan never got over her twin sister's death.
"It still haunted her," Bulatovich said.
The earlier accident "devastated her," friend Jen Warta said.
"Even though it's been 18 years or whatever, it was like it was yesterday to her," Warta said.
Mainly, however, Sanaghan was viewed as a positive, uplifting person.
Bulatovich said "she was the most positive energy I ever met in my life."
On Wednesday night, the two friends had been at a sushi restaurant in Merrillville and had spoken of vacationing on the beach.
"It wasn't supposed to happen," Bulatovich said of Thursday's accident.
Warta and Sanaghan were both nurses, soccer players and single mothers when they met about six years ago. Sanaghan worked as an emergency room nurse at a couple of different hospitals — most recently at Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey, Warta said.
"She was very dedicated to helping others," she said.
Warta said Sanaghan had been on the mend after knee surgery following an accident at the hospital. She said Sanaghan was scheduled to interview Thursday for a job at a Highland home health care company where Warta is employed.
Warta said the most important thing in Sanaghan's life was her son, Elijah, whose soccer team she coached.
Elijah, said Warta, was "her heart and soul."
Warta said Sanaghan was a nonjudgmental person who believed in living life to the fullest.
"She would give you the shirt off her back," Warta said. She would not ask anything from anybody but was very grateful if someone did something for her, said her friend.
"As they say, heaven did gain another angel."
As a 13-year-old girl in late 1997, Sarah Sanaghan appeared before the media to make a brief statement following the conviction of Richard Devon, 42, on four counts of aggravated leaving the scene of an accident in connection with the 1996 accident in which her sister died:
"My name is Sarah Sanaghan. I want to thank all the people who paid attention and cared. This man killed my sister and my best friends, and they're dead and they're never coming back, and he deserves a little more than what he got."
Devon was later sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison.
"The thing I do remember is what a brave little girl she was," said Halvorson, of Sanaghan.
Halvorson would spend time with the victims' families, sometimes at their homes, as she worked on legislation to strengthen the law on hit-and-run accidents.
Prosecutors contended Devon fled the scene, passing up his home only three houses away from the accident, and then plotted to throw investigators off his trail.
His Chevrolet Blazer was discovered days later in a residential area of Chicago's North Side, blocks away from where he reportedly worked as a handyman for a real estate broker.
Halvorson, with the support of the victims' families, sponsored a bill that increased penalties for hit-and-run accidents and required drivers to report them within one hour after they occur.