Seven members of an extended family who died in a crash on the Indiana Toll Road will be buried in their home country, a spokesman for the Ecuadorian Consulate in Chicago said Saturday.
Alberto Rebelo said the consulate is offering relatives of the victims as much information as possible, including financial and legal help and how to have the bodies properly transported back to Ecuador. He said it was the wish of surviving family members that their relatives be buried in Ecuador.
"The families are concerned about the best way for the bodies to be returned to Ecuador," he said. "We're offering them as much help as we can."
Ten members of the family were in a minivan heading east on the toll road about 8 p.m. Thursday when it hit a deer and slowed down or stopped, authorities said. The van was then hit by a semitrailer going about 65 mph. Three adults and four children were killed, including a 6-week-old boy. Three people were hospitalized.
Rebelo said representatives from the consulate traveled to Indiana on Friday night to be with the families.
"Obviously the families are devastated," he said. "The same for the families in Ecuador. We hope there is a path to recovery."
Relatives are planning a memorial in Chicago, Rebelo said, but he did not yet know when it would take place. The families had connections in Minneapolis, New York and Chicago, he said.
Rebelo said families of the victims told him the group had been traveling to New York for a baptism. Indiana State Police had said the family had been on the way to New Jersey for a funeral.
The driver of the van, Manuel Chimborazo, 30, remained in critical condition Saturday at South Bend Memorial Hospital. An injured passenger, Maria Antonia Yupa, 36, was upgraded to fair condition at South Bend after being listed as serious on Friday. There was no update released for Cayetano Quizhpe, 28, who on Friday was in stable condition at Elkhart General Hospital.
State police Sgt. Trent Smith said he had no new information to release Saturday.
The crash occurred about 10 miles east of South Bend, on a stretch of road where 20 other people were killed in four accidents between August 2005 and April 2007, including eight people who died when a semi-trailer plowed into stopped traffic near a construction zone.
Police said none of the minivan's occupants were wearing seatbelts in the crash Thursday night. Smith said the infant was in a car seat but had not been buckled in.
Those killed included Quizhpe's wife, 21-year-old Maria J. Yupa, and sons, 8-year-old Edwin Quizhpe and 6-week-old Franklin Quizhpe; Maria Antonia Yupa's husband, Pedro Chimborazo, 52, and 15-year-old son, Pedro Chimborazo Yupa; and Manuel Chimborazo's wife, Maria Chimborazo Pinguil, 26, and 8-year-old daughter, Jessica Chimborazo. Police and family members said they were from Ecuador and lived in the Chicago area. Three of the children, including the infant, were born in the United States.
Rebelo said one of the victims, Pedro Chimborazo, was a community leader in Canar, a province in Ecuador.
An acquaintance of the families in Chicago's Albany Park neighborhood, Maria Yupa, said the men in the families worked in construction. Yupa, who is not related to the victims, said it's common in the part of Ecuador they're from for people to have the same name. She said the 8-year-old girl, Jessica Chimborazo, was close to her grandfather and liked to dance and use the computer.
The driver of the semi-trailer _ Jesse Donovan, 24, of Johnston, R.I. _ was released from a hospital after being treated for minor injuries. Police said preliminary tests indicated that he had not been drinking alcohol. Donovan was an employee of Roehl Transport Inc. of Marshfield, Wis., which owns the truck.
Wilson reported from Indianapolis.