Fundraising efforts for sisters killed in I-55 crash

STAUNTON, Ill. – Two sisters from Staunton, Illinois died Tuesday night when a tractor-trailer plowed into their car on Interstate 55. The interstate was shut down for at least eight hours.

Authorities identified the two victims as 17-year-old Madisen Bertels, who was a senior at Staunton High School in town, and 20-year-old Hailey Bertels, who graduated two years ago from the same high school.

School officials expressed heartache over losing two beautiful and bright students, whose lives have been cut short too soon.

“It’s a true tragedy. They were great young ladies and had a bright future ahead of them and to see there their lives cut short, it breaks my heart and it break our hearts of our school and community,” said Principal Brett Allen, Staunton High School.

The sisters were killed in a multi-vehicle crash night around 8 p.m. They were in a 2010 Kia Forte when they were struck by a tractor-trailer on southbound I-55. The sisters both had their seat belts on.

The crash involved eight vehicles in all and about a dozen people survived, but were hospitalized with injuries. Two of those injured were said to be in critical condition.

The truck driver survived and investigators are trying to determine why he plowed into the other cars.

Illinois State Police said the truck driver has not been charged, but the crash remains under investigation.

Staunton community leaders said a tragedy like this strikes a heavy blow on this close-knit community of about 6,000 residents.

“There are no words to describe how terrible of tragedy this is, that (the sisters) cannot move forward and make a positive influence on the world,” Allen said.

The community has pulled together and established separate GoFundMe pages to cover funeral costs for the sisters and to support the family.