Vandalia comes together after tragic head-on crash

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MONTGOMERY COUNTY, IL – A head-on crash in Montgomery County Saturday night killed four people. It is a huge blow to the town of Vandalia in Illinois. The passengers were the high school principal’s parents, his daughter, and her best friend.

Now the community is banding together. Sunday night, the school’s gym was full during a vigil and there were a lot of tears and emotions.

People in attendance remembered two students and supported their principal who has lost a huge chunk of his heart.

“It’s been a blur to be quite honest because it’s been less than 24 hours since we’ve had to process this,” said Vandalia schools superintendent, Jennifer Garrison.

People embraced one another at the vigil.

“We came together as a family really quickly to just support and be there for one another,” said Garrison.

Illinois State Police say Jenna Protz and Holly Lidy, both 14, and Jackolyn and William Protz all died in a head-on crash in Montgomery County.

It happened at 6:21 p.m. on Illinois Route 185 near East 14th Road.

A Toyota was traveling eastbound and a Ford was traveling westbound. The Ford crossed into the oncoming lane and hit the Toyota head-on. All four people in the Toyota were pronounced dead at the scene.

The driver of the Ford suffered life-threatening injuries and was transported to a local trauma center by ARCH Helicopter.

They were on their way from a playoff game. The adults were the principal’s parents – Jenna, his daughter. the two young girls, upstanding freshmen known for their kindness.

“Holly and Jenna both are just lovely ladies. They will be remembered for their smiles, kindness, and selflessness. They were model student leaders in the freshman class,” said Garrison.

Preachers offered prayers and encouraged the crowd gripped with pain to share memories of the girls.

Those memories brought both laughter and tears.  People outside of the vigil said the whole town is feeling this loss.

“They played on the volleyball team.  It’s just going to be hard for all the kids to just…”

Jennie Leidner, a Vandalia resident said before becoming emotional.

“It shook a bunch of people around here gave everybody the impression that tomorrow is not promised, and this could be your last day any day,” said Allen Lane, a Vandalia resident.

At one moment during the vigil, you could see a group of girls hugging.

Their cries rang through the gym.

One thing everyone in the town could agree on during times of tragedy was that they do come together.

“It hurts a lot. It’s something that just won’t go away to young people that are just taking who had so much more to give.

School officials said they will have grief counselors on standby to help students and staff.

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