A summer night race down a Gurnee street turned deadly when a 16-year-old Antioch girl was ejected from one of the vehicles as it lost control and rolled over.
Cynthia Perez, a junior from Antioch High School, was sitting in the back seat of a two-door Honda when it flipped over on Route 120 about 8:19 p.m. Monday, Gurnee Police Cmdr. Jay Patrick said Tuesday. She and another passenger -- an unidentified 20-year-old male -- were thrown through the back window, officials said. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
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The two teenage drivers involved in the street race were arrested and jailed, police said.
"(Street racing) is a danger to the participants as well as other motorists on the roadway," Patrick said. "Poor decisions behind the wheel can end in tragedy in a fraction of a second. This is a clear example of that."
He said the black 2004 Honda Civic driven by Jeremy Betancourt, 17, of the 41000 block of North Circle near Antioch, was racing a red 2000 Ford Focus eastbound on Route 120 about a quarter mile east of Hunt Club Road when the accident occurred. The Honda slid into the center median ditch between the east and westbound lanes, became airborne and rolled over, he said. It ended up in the westbound lanes, Patrick said.
The three males in the Honda were taken from the crash to Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville with nonlife threatening injuries, he said.
After being released from the hospital, Betancourt was charged with reckless homicide and aggravated street racing. He was also cited for no valid drivers license and operating an uninsured vehicle, Patrick said.
If found guilty of the most serious charge, Betancourt could be sentenced up to five years in prison, officials said.
The driver of the Ford Focus -- Michael R. Dawson, 19, of the 400 block of Filweber Court, Antioch -- was also charged with aggravated street racing and operating a vehicle with an expired registration. If found guilty of aggravated street racing, Dawson could spend up to three years in prison, officials said. Both Dawson and Betancourt remain held in Lake County jail in lieu of $250,000 bond, Patrick said.
Jim McKay, superintendent of Antioch-Lake Villa Area High School District 117, said Perez "was a good student who made many positive relationships with staff members."
Antioch High School Principal Bradford Hubbard said Perez was well liked among staff and students.
"The staff had many positive things to say about her," Hubbard said. "She really had some strong relationships with many staff members here."
In addition, he said a note will be posted on the school website at sequoits.com stating that the district crisis team will be available to students and staff members on Wednesday, June 26, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
"We encourage individuals or groups looking for a place to gather, grieve, or seek assistance, to come to the counseling office where our counselors, social workers, and psychologists will be on-site," the note reads. "We are deeply saddened by this news and hope to offer our staff and building as resources in this extremely difficult time."
Patrick said officials don't know where the two cars were coming from or going to at the time of the crash.
He said the accident remains under investigation, and additional charges could be filed depending on the result of blood tests. He added that anyone with any information about the accident is asked to contact the Gurnee Police Department at (847) 599-7000.