Alcohol Suspected in Fatal Wrong-Way Crash

Four people killed, one critically injured in early-morning crash

Four people were killed and another was critically injured early Monday when a wrong-way driver crashed into another vehicle on Interstate 80 in south suburban Hazel Crest. 

Authorities say 29-year-old Gustavo Vargas, of Berwyn, was driving three friends home from a Harvey club when he missed an exit and pulled an illegal U-turn to head east in the westbound lanes of the interstate.

Vargas crashed his 1996 Infiniti head-on into a 1999 Ford Wagon, driven by 35-year-old Jason Wepsiec of Joliet, at about 2:20 a.m. between Toll Plaza 43 and Kedzie Avenue, authorities said.

Both vehicles burst into flames.

Vargas and Wepsiec were killed, as were two passengers in Vargas' car, the front passenger, Jorge Pina, 27 of Chicago; and rear-seat passenger, Armando Ruiz, 29 of Berwyn.

Eduardo Rodriguez, 31 of Chicago, was the sole survivor from the engulfed Infiniti, police said. He was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in critical condition.

Wepsiec was a young father, engaged to be married and working on a new life after a troubled past.

His fiancée said late Monday that she'd woken up very early in the morning, noticed it was foggy, and called Wepsiec to tell him that it was too dangerous to drive to see her.

"I sat outside I called him and I called him again and again and again," Kelli Minger recalled. "He didn't answer."

By that time, the horrific crash had already happened. Minger got the call three hours later from Wepsiec's mother.

"I screamed. I didn't want to believe her," she said, adding that they'd planned to spend the day polishing his resume so he could apply for a better, more steady job that might one day help reunite him with his 10-year-old son.

Vargas' family said all the occupants of his car were friends and colleagues from Just Energy.

"My brother was a fun-loving guy, man. Everywhere he went, he was always there making friends. He knew a bunch of people, always friendly. He was the life of the party," said Vargas' brother, Israel Vargas.

The crash closed the portion of interstate for nearly six hours, affecting the morning rush. It reopened shortly after 8 a.m.

Officials said this is the second wrong-way driving accident within a week where alcohol was a contributing factor. It was the third incident involving a wrong-way driver in two months.

Last week, police said an SUV traveled the wrong way on the outbound Stevenson Expressway for about 6 miles before crashing into another car near Lake Shore Drive.

In January, a wrong-way driver nearly struck an Illinois State Trooper on the Kennedy Expressway. The officer was making an unrelated traffic stop near Kostner Avenue when the car swerved around his cruiser while traveling inbound on the outbound lanes.

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