Police were searching Saturday for an SUV that left the scene of an accident in Lake Zurich in which an 18-year-old girl was killed and two other teenagers injured.
The girls were walking along the shoulder of Church Street shortly after 9 p.m. Friday when they were struck from behind by the southbound SUV, authorities said. The tragedy took place along the 100 block of Church Street, just north of Jamie Lane, Lake Zurich police Cmdr. Kevin Finlon said.
Friends said the trio were on their way to the Alpine Fest community festival, about two blocks away.
Gabriella Drozdz, of the 400 block of Grever Court in Lake Zurich, was pronounced dead just before 10 p.m. at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Lake County Coroner Artis Yancey said.
The two other victims were sisters Vanessa Fitts, 18, and Rosie Fitts, 16, also of Lake Zurich, friends said. They were taken to Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington by the Lake Zurich and Wauconda fire departments, police said.
The Fitts girls were discharged from the hospital as of Saturday afternoon, said Gabriella's older sister, Ilona Gregory of Chicago. Gabriella also is survived by two brothers, Scott and Chris, and her parents, Teresa and Jan, both natives of Poland, Gregory said.
"We are devastated," Gregory said.
Nicknamed "Gabby," the girl was "the baby of the family," Gregory said. "She was amazing. She really liked to read, she liked to travel, she liked crafts and she really liked music. She was really creative. She was really kind and compassionate with animals."
The family hasn't yet made funeral arrangements.
Friends plan to meet Sunday morning near the Jewel-Osco store, 485 Ela Road in Lake Zurich, to remember Gabriella during Sunday's Alpine Fest Parade, friend Katlynn Dwiel said.
"The parade goes right past where she got hit," Katlynn said. "We all decided to meet up and walk for her and show how much we love her."
A Facebook page was set up to remember her.
The large SUV was described as a newer model, white or light-colored, and it may have a damaged or broken turn signal or hazard light cover on the front passenger side, police said.
Church Street was closed for about 2½ hours while the crash was being investigated. Responding agencies included police departments from Grayslake, Lake Bluff, Lincolnshire and Wauconda. The Lake County Major Crash Assistance Team is assisting in the investigation.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Lake Zurich police at (847) 438-2349.
Gabriella and Vanessa had recently graduated from Lake Zurich High School, while Rosie is a student at the school, friends said.
Cisco Soto, a friend, said Gabriella's laugh was "really contagious. She's a really fun person to be around." The three teens were walking to Alpine Fest in Lake Zurich when the accident happened, Cisco said.
Gabriella had planned to attend the College of Lake County in Grayslake.
"She was planning on going to college and making something of herself," said friend Stephanie Sawyer. "Everyone loved her. She was very outgoing and always lit up the room she walked into."
Katlynn said she met Gabriella and Vanessa in the eighth grade. "Gabby and Vanessa were inseparable," she said. "It's so sad that Rosie had to see all of that, and the same with Vanessa. It's so heartbreaking."
Drozdz had an unfailingly warm personality, Katlynn said. "She was the one person who made everybody smile, she was outgoing and funny."
Classmate Christina DiVito said she knew Gabriella from school, and she also works with Vanessa at TGI Friday's in Lake Zurich.
"Gabby always had a kind word," she said. "She always brought me up, never down."