Counselors to be at Unity following car accident

Counselors to be at Unity following car accident

TOLONO – Unity High School students will have the benefit of counselors when they return to school Monday to help them deal with the tragic death of a 16-year-old classmate killed in a car accident Thursday afternoon.

Three other Unity students also injured in the accident remained at Carle Foundation Hospital this morning.

The accident occurred at 12:35 p.m. Thursday, about 1 mile south of Philo on Illinois 130 at the intersection with County Road 700 N.

Illinois State Police reported that Matthew T. Essex of Tolono was killed in the crash. Also injured were the driver of the car, Tyler S. Sellers, 16, of Sidney, and passengers Michelle L. Fairow, 15, and Jennifer L. Chandler, 15, both of Tolono.

Sellers remained in critical condition this morning while Fairow and Chandler were listed in fair condition.

Matthew Essex had to be cut out of the car; all four of the students were wearing seat belts, according to the police report.

"It's a very tragic day for Unity High School," said Principal Phil Morrison. "Our thoughts, concerns and prayers go out to the students involved in the accident and their families, as well as the students of Unity High School."

Police said Sellers was driving west on the county road, but failed to stop at the intersection of 130 and was hit on the passenger side by a southbound pickup truck on 130, driven by Jim Robinson, 44, of Toledo. Robinson's truck rolled over and hit a utility pole. Both vehicles came to rest on the southwest side of the intersection in the grass, according to the report. Robinson was treated for injuries at Carle and released.

No tickets were immediately issued but Sgt. Bill Emery said Sellers would likely be cited for failure to yield at an intersection and for having too many people in his vehicle.

Under graduated licensing rules, teens with less than six months of driving experience are not supposed to have more than one person under the age of 20 in a vehicle unless it's a sibling. There are no limits on the number of siblings a driver can carry. Emery said police learned that Sellers had been driving for only six weeks.

The students had been dismissed early from Unity because of parent-teacher conferences scheduled for Thursday afternoon and evening.

Morrison said school was not in session today, also because of a previously scheduled teachers' work day.

When students return to school Monday, counseling services will be available for any student who desires it, Morrison said.

"We've worked with not only the school counselors but with our student crisis response team, which includes area social workers and the ministerial association as well," he said.

Morrison said Matthew Essex was in the 11th grade and was a very popular student in the school. He was in band and also played soccer.

The other three students are in 10th grade, according to Morrison.

School officials decided that athletic events scheduled for tonight will be held as scheduled.

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