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UPDATE: Orland Park Police confirmed the evening of Friday, Dec. 6, they have the driver in custody related to this fatal hit and run. A press conference is to be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, at the police station. No further comments are being provided by police until that time. The Prairie will update when more information becomes available.
A St. Michael teacher was killed and another injured the evening of Dec. 4 after both pedestrians were involved in a hit-and-run near Square Celt following a parish Christmas party.
Police reportedly responded around 8 p.m. to 39 Orland Square Drive, where a hit-and-run crash involving pedestrians was reported. Two women were transported to Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox, where a 61-year-old died and a 54-year-old was treated for injuries, according to a Facebook post made the same evening by the Orland Park Police Department.
According to a statement released by St. Michael School Principal Paul Smith, the woman who died was Margaret “Rone” Leja, a technology teacher at the Catholic school. Elizabeth Kosteck, a third-grade teacher at the school, was identified as the injured pedestrian, according to the statement. The statement notes with “great sadness and shock” that the women were struck following the parish’s Christmas party.
Leja was a resident of Tinley Park, according to a press release issued Dec. 5 by the Will County Coroner’s Office. She was pronounced deceased at 8:33 p.m. Dec. 4, according to the release.
Orland Park Police Chief said in an email to The Orland Park Prairie the morning of Thursday, Dec. 5, police were still working on enhancing video and obtaining more footage.
“[We] want to make sure we have the right info before we put anything out,” he wrote. “We will be anxious to get anything out that will help.”
He noted the two women were leaving Square Celt and walking north across a service drive to a car parked north of the service road in the parking lot. The vehicle that struck them came out of the Square Celt parking lot and turned left before it hit them, he added.
The injured woman was in serious condition when police arrived but was released from the hospital Dec. 5, McCarthy added. Ray Hanania, a spokesperson for Orland Fire Protection District, further noted that woman was talking at the scene and had injuries described as not life-threatening.
When asked if police have any idea how fast the vehicle was traveling when it hit the women, McCarthy explained that an accident reconstruction was done, but without a vehicle to examine police derived “limited data” from it.
The faculty of St. Michael School and the Rev. Frank A. Kurucz reportedly gathered at Silver Cross in prayer following the incident. School also started late Dec. 5, and faculty gathered privately before the start of the school day. Kurucz was to lead a prayer service once the children arrived.
Sandburg High School Principal Jennifer Tyrrell noted in an email to The Prairie that Consolidated High School District 230 “reached out to the St. Michael School administration to offer both condolences and support during this difficult time.” Members of both Sandburg’s and Stagg High School’s crisis teams were at St. Michael the morning of Dec. 5 to provide support for staff and students, she added.
Police said the investigation is active and are asking anyone with more information on the driver and/or vehicle to contact them at (708) 349-4111 or firstname.lastname@example.org. They also have called for the driver to surrender to police.
Maureen Morrissey, St. Michael School’s assistant principal, declined further comment regarding Leja.
“At this time we are respecting the family’s privacy,” she wrote to The Prairie.