A fiery crash took the lives of three members of a Freeport family, and left another one badly injured. Skid marks on U.S. 20 lead up to a memorial surrounded by scattered debris, and nearby, a damaged guard rail, not far from the Winnebago-Stephenson county line.
Delilah Cleveland, who was driving, and her son, Darryl Cleveland, were trapped in the car that became engulfed by flames.
Jonathan White, also Delilah’s son, was ejected from the car and later pronounced dead at a local hospital.
21-year-old Damarcus Strong, a family friend who was also in the car, is recovering in the hospital.
Darryl was a sophomore at Freeport High School, where the mood was somber on Monday as students made their way to classes.
Students are still reeling from the loss of their friend, also known as “Kobe,” whose favorite color was red.
“I didn’t believe it at first. It was like not real,” said Victoria Fane, who’s known Darryl since childhood. “(He was) somebody I see every day, (who made) me smile, (made) me laugh… He couldn’t be gone like that.”
Teachers and faculty members also showed their support for a life taken far too soon.
“You know, like so many of our students, he really had a bright future,” said Associate Principal Ryan Pierce, who was also Darryl’s basketball coach. “And that just adds to the disappointment and frustration that he wasn’t able to see that through.”
“He was a friendly person, he liked to make friends,” said another friend, Rocky Crawford. “He just wanted to play ball with his life. He wasn’t mean to anyone. (He joked) around, had a good sense of humor. Just a good kid.”
Some students were allowed to go home early to mourn, while others found the support they needed from their peers.
“I guess we would all just be strong,” said Zarianna Felton, who will miss seeing Cleveland’s face in her fifth period every day. “Keep positive thoughts in our heads, and help each other move along.”