ST. CLAIR COUNTY, Ill. - The village of Freeburg, Illinois is mourning the tragic death of an eighth-grader killed while riding his bike to a friend's house.
Mason Schmittling, 14, was struck by an SUV Tuesday around 3 p.m. while trying to cross a busy intersection at North Main and State Street. He was taken to a hospital, where he later died from his injuries.
The driver of the SUV is 16-years-old. Police are not certain if the young driver was distracted when the accident occurred. The driver who struck Schmittling stayed on the scene and has been cooperating with the ongoing investigation.
Schmittling's family said he was a loving kid and they'll miss him dearly. They want Mason to be remembered as always having a smile on his face that could light up any room, and that he was full of life, joy, and laughter.
On Wednesday afternoon, Schmittling's family and friends gathered at the crash site to create a makeshift memorial, leaving balloons, flowers, and a message jar for people to offer condolences.
Residents are saddened for both the driver and the victim's family.
"We are willing to help with what we can. We did call in grief counselors at schools today. They met with all junior high classes. We had kids talk with counselors," said Superintendent Tomi Diefenbach, Freeburg School District. "It's always a tragedy in a small community or a big community everybody pulls together everybody is there to help that family and help the survivors family and the friends. He had a lot of friends he has touched a lot of lives."
The Schmittling family has set up a community fund at Citizens Bank. You can drop donations off at branches in Freeburg, New Athens, and Mascoutah to help the family with funeral expenses in care of Christina, Eric, or Mason.
A vigil will be held Thursday night at the crash site at 6 p.m. in Mason's memory. The family asks everyone to wear blue at the event.