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Stunned silence was all that came forward from the Gary basketball community after learning of the death of Lighthouse boys basketball coach Marvin Rea on Tuesday.

Pain and tears were shared by most.

"Shock, complete shock, I can't believe it," said Tyrone Robinson, Bowman Academy coach. "Right now, I'm hurting real bad."

Rea, 49, of Gary, and Kelli Nicole Bradley, 34, of Gary, were killed in a five-vehicle pileup about 3:20 p.m. Tuesday on southbound Interstate 65 in Tippecanoe County, near the Ind. 26/172 exit, according to Indiana State Police.

A white 2007 Freightliner semi pulling an intermodal trailer, a red 1998 International semi pulling a flatbed and Rea’s 2006 red Cadillac CTS all were stopped in the left lane because of a crash farther south when they were rear-ended by a white 2017 Chevrolet box truck and a white 2017 Freightliner semi pulling a car hauler, police said.

The car hauler’s driver, a 31-year-old Plainfield, Indiana, man, was distracted and did not see traffic had come to a stop, police said.

It remained unclear whether Rea’s car was first hit by the box truck, or if the box truck was pushed into Rea’s car by the car hauler, police said.

Rea’s car was crushed between the box truck and the flatbed trailer in front of him, killing him and Bradley, a passenger, police said.

The white box truck was spun around, becoming pinned between the flatbed trailer and the car hauler. The car hauler came to rest partially through a guardrail, police said.

The impact also pushed the red international semi into the intermodal trailer.

The box truck driver, a 62-year-old Missouri man, and the Plainfield man were taken to hospitals, police said. The drivers of the two semis at the front of the pileup were not injured.

The crash forced police to shut down I-65 in both directions for several hours.

Bradley was a seventh-grade teacher at Block Middle School in East Chicago. Her loss has greatly impacted those who loved her in that community, a colleague said in an email to The Times.

Robinson and Rea played together at Roosevelt in the 1980s. Under coach Ron Heflin, Rea led the Panthers to the 1987 final four, where Rea was selected as the IHSAA Mental Attitude Award winner.

Rea then played for Gene Keady at Purdue.

Rea and Robinson started coaching together in 1996 in the AAU circles with the Falcons. The two moved on to Bowman Academy and the seeds of a dynasty were planted in 2007 when the Eagles began playing high school basketball.

In 2010, Rea won the Class A state championship with a 74-52 win over Barr-Reeve. Two years later, Bowman lost to Park Tudor in the Class 2A state final. In 2013, Bowman and Rea returned to the 2A state final and beat Linton-Stockton 86-73.

Then, remarkably, in 2014 Bowman returned to state in the Class 3A championship and lost to Greensburg 89-76.

But getting to state four times in five years is almost unprecedented.

"He built a dynasty," Robinson said. "He was so respected around Indiana."

Longtime friend and assistant coach at Lighthouse, Kenya Stines, could hardly speak on Wednesday morning. He said counselors have been assembled at the Gary charter school to help students deal with this tragedy.

"All the kids were calling (Tuesday night) and wanting me to tell them something different," Stines said. "They were saying, 'Don't call me with this news.' But I gotta be strong for these kids."

Lighthouse is scheduled to play at Marquette Catholic on Friday night, and athletic director Quincy Taylor said that the players voted unanimously to keep the scheduled game. Taylor also said administrators from his school worked with counselors to help the student athletes with their mourning. His Lions were devastated when Taylor arrived at the school.

"We told them it's tough, they're going to hurt," Taylor said. "But we have to remember how Marvin lived his life. He was fun. Charismatic. He had a unique voice in the gym. He lived every day of his life to the fullest and that's what we have to do now."

Taylor, who coached Lighthouse from 2014 through 2016, said no decision was made on Wednesday about who would officially be named the Lions' head coach. He said the adults were too sad to think about that. But he expects Lighthouse's administration would make a call on that Thursday.

Stines and Rea were also teaming with East Chicago's E'Twaun Moore, of the NBA's New Orleans Pelicans, to start a youth league in Gary in the spring.

"I'm getting calls from everywhere," Stines said. "People can't believe it. It's so sad. I lost my friend."

Times staff writer Sarah Reese contributed to this report.


Sports Reporter

Steve has won awards during two different stints at The Times. In addition to being the Prep Beat columnist, he covers football, boys basketball and boys track. He is a long-suffering Cubs fan.