In his last moments, Ronald Prohaska lived up to his reputation as a family man who cared for his children above anything else.
Prohaska, an off-duty Cook County sheriff’s officer, was fatally struck by a vehicle Sunday while servicing his family’s stalled car in Morris.
His last words: “Don’t worry about me; take care of my girls,” according to his younger brother, Todd Prohaska.
“His girls mattered to him,” Prohaska told the Chicago Sun-Times. “I’m gonna do whatever it takes to help them through this … I love them so much.”
Ronald Prohaska’s daughters, ages 7 and 12, were inside the stalled car Sunday afternoon when he drove to them and assisted with their car troubles in rural Morris, 25 miles southwest of Joliet, authorities and Todd Prohaska said.
Ronald Prohaska, 50, was working in the engine compartment when another motorist hit the stalled vehicle and both cars burst into flames, Morris police said.
His 7-year-old daughter was not breathing when paramedics arrived, Todd Prohaska said. She was resuscitated and taken with her sister to a hospital, where they were treated and released.
Ronald Prohaska’s ex-wife and her husband were also in the vehicle during the crash, Todd Prohaska said. Prohaska was pulled from the engine compartment and airlifted to Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, where he died from his injuries, police said.
The driver of the vehicle who caused the crash was cited for failing to reduce speed, according to police, who said the investigation is ongoing.
Prohaska began work with the Cook County sheriff’s office in 1994 in corrections and became an officer in 2004, his brother said.
Prohaska aspired to be an officer while growing up in the city’s Mayfair neighborhood on the Northwest Side.
He looked up to his neighbor, Chicago Police Officer Richard Clark, who was killed on-duty in 1986 in a high-profile hostage situation, Todd Prohaska said.
He remembers Ronald calling to say he was becoming a cop. He was “ecstatic” even though he was working the graveyard shift, Todd Prohaska said.
“He always wanted to help people. It was his nature to want to be there and console people.”
Prohaska worked his way up to officer and had his two daughters. His marriage didn’t work out, but he remained committed to his girls, Todd Prohaska said.
He would drive from his home on the Northwest Side to rural Mazon for every softball game or event.
Todd Prohaska also remembers his brother as a very funny person — even in dark times.
“He had an ability to just make an entire room burst out in laughter,” he said. “It was like he saw the world differently and just turned it into a laugh.”
Prohaska’s family is accepting donations online to fund a funeral and medical expenses for his daughters.