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posted: 6/25/2010 12:01 AM

9 years for Wood Dale man in DUI crash that killed two friends

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  • Erik C. Ecker

    Erik C. Ecker


A Wood Dale man was sentenced Thursday to nine years in prison for a fiery alcohol-related crash that killed two friends.

Erik C. Ecker, 26, must complete 85 percent of his sentence before being paroled.

He pleaded guilty May 3 to aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol.

At 4:30 a.m. March 18, 2007, Ecker was southbound on I-355 from westbound I-290 near Addison when his Jeep overturned, slammed into a guard rail and sign and caught fire. Witnesses reported Ecker was traveling 100 mph. He also had a blood-alcohol level of .147 - nearly twice the legal limit of .08, prosecutor Ann Celine O'Hallaren said. Ecker was able to pull his girlfriend out of the mangled wreckage, but he suffered severe burns attempting to rescue his two back-seat passengers.

His best friend, Anthony Ishu, 23, of Wood Dale, and Cynthia Botello, a 22-year-old DePaul University student who also lived in Wood Dale, were killed. The couples were coming home from downtown Chicago, where they celebrated Ishu's recent birthday.

"Drinking and driving do not mix," said DuPage State's Attorney Joseph Birkett, lamenting the tragic loss of life. "Unfortunately, Mr. Ecker learned that lesson too late. His actions cost two young people their lives and forever changed the lives of their families."

Defense attorney John "Jack" Donahue said Ecker, an architectural student, completed extensive alcohol counseling and treatment since the crash while free on a $700,000 bond. Ecker has a prior 2004 DUI arrest in which he later pleaded guilty to an amended charge of reckless driving.

He faced a possible sentence of six to 28 years in prison for the fatal crash without the plea agreement, in which DuPage Circuit Judge Kathryn Creswell presided.