UPDATE: A Life Remembered | Crash victim recalled as 'best friend to everybody'

UPDATE: A Life Remembered | Crash victim recalled as 'best friend to everybody'

New 2:20 p.m. Friday:

Illinois State Police have released the name of the pedestrian who ran out in front of a pickup truck south of Danville this week, leading to an accident that killed a man on a motorcycle.

Police said 60 year-old Hildrus Hancock ran in front of the truck on Route One at Greenwood Avenue on Wednesday, causing the driver to slam on the brakes.

Twenty-eight year-old Tyler Karuzis of Westville was behind the truck on a motorcycle and was unable to stop in time to avoid hitting the truck. Karuzis died Thursday morning at the hospital from head injuries suffered in the crash.

Hancock was issued two tickets, including walking improperly on a roadway. Vermilion County State's Attorney Jacqueline Lacy said Friday she had not yet received all the crash reports.

-Michael Kiser

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Original story 7 a.m. Friday:

WESTVILLE — Many in the Westville community are mourning today following the death of Tyler Karuzis, who succumbed Wednesday to injuries he suffered in a motorcycle accident on Illinois 1 north of Belgium.

"He was a best friend to everybody," said his sister, Lexi Karuzis, 19, who described her older brother as her hero, protector and best friend. "I don't think he had a stranger in his life."

Champaign County Coroner Duane Northrup announced that Mr. Karuzis, 28, was pronounced dead at 10:33 a.m. Thursday in the Carle Foundation Hospital Critical Care Unit in Urbana.

He died from traumatic head injuries he received during the crash, according to the coroner's office, and no autopsy will be performed.

Lexi said that about 50 people were packed into a waiting room at Carle on Wednesday night hoping to see her brother, who was airlifted from the scene of the accident. It occurred about 11 a.m. Wednesday on Illinois 1 near Greenwood Avenue.

According to Illinois State Police, a pedestrian ran in front of a pickup truck, prompting the driver to hit his brakes. Mr. Karuzis, who was behind the truck on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle, rear-ended the truck and lost control of his bike, which tipped on its side and came to rest in oncoming lanes.

State police cited the pedestrian, Hildrus Hancock, 60, of Danville, for multiple offenses, including failure to yield to traffic and walking improperly on the roadway.

A 2008 Westville High graduate, Mr. Karuzis was a member of the 2005 Final Four Tiger football team, 2006 Class 2A State Runner-up team, and 2007 Class 2A State Runner-up team, said Westville High Principal and Head Football Coach Guy Goodlove. He said he played defensive end and tight end on those teams.

Goodlove said he and Shawn Skinner, who's now the St. Joseph-Odgen varsity football coach, were reminiscing about their memories of Tyler on Thursday.

"We remember Tyler as being a student-athlete that maximized his talent with everything he had.  He held nothing back.  He really loved football, he loved his teammates and he really loved Tiger football," Goodlove said, adding that Skinner recalled the "Inches Speech" that he (Goodlove) would give to the players. "Tyler would get so emotional he would worry if he'd be able to play."

After he graduated, whenever we crossed paths, Goodlove said, Tyler would always stop, talk, laugh and share stories.

"He never failed to mention his brother and sister," he said. " He was always concerned about them.  I always thought Tyler was someone who put others first before himself, always willing to be helpful and caring."

Lexi Karuzis said football was a huge part of his life, and he loved the Westville community along with riding his motorcycle, the Chicago Cubs, his cowboy boots, his cowboy hat and country music.

He had been working as a driver for Sygma in Danville, but it wasn't his passion, she said, and he was on his way Wednesday to turn in an application for a construction-related job he was excited about when the accident occurred.

Lexi said his girlfriend, Brandy Cheuvront, had just been with him, kissed him and told him "goodbye" before he rode away.

"He was so lively," Lexi said. "So hardworking. The most down-to-earth guy I've ever met."

She said he was very good with kids, too, especially his nieces and friends' kids, who loved being around him.

That will be one of the hardest parts of dealing with his death, Lexi said, is knowing that he wanted a family of his own.

She said seeing so many people at the hospital Wednesday night put into perspective how many lives her brother had impacted.

"He's not going to be forgotten, for sure," said Lexi, who was very close with her brother, who talked to her every day, even when she was away at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. "Mentally and physically, he was the strongest person I know."

Lexi said he never regained consciousness after the accident, but they continued to talk to him, reminding him how strong and hardheaded he was.

"We never left his side," she said of their family. She said her brother is an organ donor, so that process will delay final arrangements.

Lexi said she knows the upcoming Labor Day celebration next weekend — a decadeslong tradition in Westville, including a Labor Day parade — is going to be tough for everyone, especially her brother's friends. She said her brother always looked forward to that weekend.

The community has rallied around the family, even coordinating a fund to help with medical expenses — TK Tough Fund — and arranging for meals. Lexi said money is not what they're looking for, but they appreciate the outpouring of support from so many.

"And that brings me a lot of comfort that he was so loved," she said.

-Tracy Crane

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