“The Best Gift A Mother Could Ever Have”: Football Star Mourned After Fatal Post-Prom Car Crash

The teenager driving the car 18-year-old Aaron Dunigan was in was charged with possession of marijuana

An 18-year-old football quarterback on his way home from a high school prom early Saturday was one of two killed in a crash in south suburban Calumet City, officials said. 

The crash happened in 700 block of State Street at about 6:40 a.m., Calumet City Police Chief Edward Gilmore said.

Aaron K. Dunigan, an 18-year-old student and star quarterback for the football team at Thornton Fractional High School, was heading home from prom with two teenage boys when their westbound vehicle crossed the center line and struck an eastbound vehicle, driven by 56-year-old Juan Jose Rivera, authorities said.

Rivera, of Calumet City, was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where he was pronounced dead at 7:33 a.m., the Cook County medical examiner’s office said.

Dunigan, of the 800 block of 163rd Street in Calumet City, was pronounced dead at the scene at 7:26 a.m., the medical examiner’s office said. 

"I couldn't have asked for a better partner in life," said Dunigan's mother, Katherine Jackson. "That was my son."

Family members said Dunigan had won an award during his final football season and was getting ready to play college football at Southern Illinois University.

"It is unfortunate that during this prom and graduation season, that we mourn the loss of this talented young man," Thornton Fractional High School District 215 Superintendent Dr. Creg E. Williams said in a statement.

"Everybody loves my baby. He was the most awesome kid and the best gift a mother could ever have," Jackson said. 

The teenager driving the westbound vehicle was charged with possession of marijuana, Gilmore said. A blood test was performed to see if he had any marijuana in his system at the time of the crash, but Gilmore said he did not know the results late Saturday.

Jackson said she does not blame the teen driver for her son's death.

"I want to hold him and let him know that Aaron loves him too," she said. "It's nobody's fault."

As she prepares for his funeral, Dunigan's mother said she will still attend her son's graduation Wednesday.

"I'll be sitting in his chair," she said. "I'll be his legs and he'll be my wings. We are going to get our diploma."

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