‘We just can’t believe she’s gone’
By BRIAN STANLEY, Tony Graf AND JANET LUNDQUIST Sun-Times Media October 16, 2012 2:42AM
New Lenox Fire Protection District's Station 1 shows support for the Little family in New Lenox on Oct. 15, 2012. Ken Little, a former New Lenox firefighter, was injured in a car crash that killed his daughter. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun Times Media
Updated: November 17, 2012 6:26AM
Residents of a New Lenox neighborhood remained in shock Monday over the weekend car crash that killed a 9-year-old girl and injured her father and 11-year-old sister.
“The two girls [Karly and Katie] were like best friends, they were always playing together,” said Brad Linthicum, who lives across the street from the Little family. “We always saw them out in the front yard.”
The accident Saturday and Karly’s death has shocked the entire neighborhood, he said.
“We all just can’t believe it,” Linthicum said, adding that some neighbors have tied ribbons around trees and set up a memorial for the family. “I don’t know if anyone knows how to deal with this. It’s a tragedy, and we just can’t believe she’s gone. She was such a nice girl.”
Ken Little’s co-workers and customers at the South Holland printing company he manages were stunned by the news of the crash. His aunt, Fran Bialobrzeski, runs the front office of Fancher Printers.
“Customers are all shocked because those two girls were the love of his life, of course,” she said. “We’re coping, I guess. It’s very difficult. Hard to talk about it.”
Bialobrzeski said Little’s wife, Karen, is overwhelmed with grief.
“I guess [Sunday] it became reality. Saturday was not good,” Bialobrzeski said.
An email from a family friend said Ken Little had his spleen removed and suffered injuries to his small intestine, three broken ribs and a collapsed lung.
Katie Little hit her head in the crash and suffered other injuries. She left Riverside Medical Center in Kankakee on Monday, while her father is still there in serious condition, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Little was driving home with his daughters from visiting his mother at a nursing home in Kankakee County when their 2009 Hyundai was hit on the driver’s side by a 2003 GMC truck around 10:20 a.m. on 6000 North Road approaching Illinois 50, according to police. The intersection, between Bourbonnais and Manteno townships, has a stop sign for 6000 North a few yards past a railroad crossing.
Karly was taken to St. Mary’s Hospital in Kankakee, where she was pronounced dead at 10:52 a.m.
The driver of the GMC, Jose Villagomez, 22, of Kankakee, was treated at Riverside Medical Center and released. Villagomez had a 1-year-old child in the rear seat of his vehicle who was also hospitalized, police said.
Karly was a Girl Scout who attended fourth grade at Nelson Ridge Elementary School. She also played on the Legacy Soccer travel team and was planning to play in a tournament in Wisconsin this weekend.
Social workers were available at Nelson Ridge all day to help students work through the loss, said Jenny Zimmerman, spokeswoman for New Lenox School District 122. Monday afternoon. Nelson Ridge sent an email to students’ families, informing them of Karly’s death and extending condolences to the Little family.
The email reads in part: “It is very difficult for all of us to face the passing of a young person. ... Many of you knew Karly, and we hope that you will remember and celebrate her life. For those of you who did not know Karly, please support us with your understanding and offer encouragement to those who may need it.”
Maureen Crain, of New Lenox, the grandmother of a fellow Girl Scout from New Lenox Troop 30, knew Karly personally.
“She was the sweetest little girl — polite, nice. It was so tragic,” Crain said.
Crain met Karly and her family at Scouting events. Crain remembers her granddaughter, Kaylin Crain, playing with Karly during visits.
“Her smile and bubbly personality brought joy to many,” Maria Lindstrom said of Karly. Maria’s daughter, Sarah, also is in Troop 30.
“Karly was a wonderful, sweet girl. We’re all just so saddened by her loss. Our hearts have gone out to her family. Everyone loved her who knew her,” said Susan O’Donnell, who knows Karly’s mother.
Jordan Patrick, 10, a new resident of the Little’s neighborhood, helped tie pink and blue ribbons around trees Monday afternoon in memory of Karly. At least 15 children in the neighborhood participated in the memorial activity.
Brian Patrick, Jordan’s father, said his family recently moved from Chicago to New Lenox, and the Littles were the first family to have the Patricks over for dinner. Brian also remembers Karly fishing in the neighborhood pond with local kids, along with her Ken and Katie.
Craig McIntosh, the coach of Karly’s soccer team, described her as a “very hard-working player. In training, she was zoned into skills, developing, doing things properly.”
“Every game right now will be dedicated to Karly,” he said. “Every day we step on the field will be for Karly.”