The Duneland School Corporation is mourning the passing of Chesterton Middle School teacher Lauren Thompson, who lost her life in a motor vehicle crash in Portage late Tuesday afternoon, according to the Town of Chesterton. 

The Town of Chesterton released the following on its Facebook page Wednesday:

“Chesterton Middle School has experienced a great loss this morning with the unexpected passing of one of its teachers, Lauren Thompson,” DSC said in a statement released Wednesday.

Thompson was in her second year of teaching eighth-grade English at CMS.

“Lauren was a shining star on the CMS faculty and was loved by her students and fellow staff members,” CMS Principal Mike Hamacher said. “This is a great loss to our students, faculty, and staff members.”

“We are devastated,” DSC Superintendent Chip Pettit said. “Our prayers go out to her husband and family. It is with great sorrow that we provide support and comfort to our students and staff.”

The accident, involving multiple vehicles, occurred at 5:45 p.m. at the intersection of Willowcreek Road and Lute Road, the Portage Police Department said. Officers confirmed on their arrival at the scene that a total of six vehicles was involved and that one person was deceased.

Another person was alive but unconscious and trapped in a vehicle, while a third had sustained minor head injuries, the PPD said. Others at the scene complained of pain but refused transport to hospital. “The driver with the head injury was transported via ambulance to a local hospital for treatment and is expected to recover,” the PPD said.

Initial investigation indicates that a 2016 Cadillac SUV was southbound on Willowcreek Road “at an extreme speed” when it rear-ended a GMS sport utility vehicle stopped for a red light at Lute Road, the PPD said. “The Cadillac struck the GMC with such force that the GMC was shoved into the rear of a third vehicle and all three vehicles continued completely through the intersection and came to rest on the south side of Lute Road. In the aftermath of this initial collision three other vehicles traveling on Lute Road or on northbound Willowcreek were struck in secondary collisions with the first three vehicles. One of these involved vehicles flipped onto its roof and another vehicle came to rest on top of the Cadillac.”

The driver of the Cadillac—identified as a 42-year-old Portage man—was successfully extricated and airlifted to a regional trauma center for treatment of serious head and internal injuries, the PPD said. “The cause or reason for the vehicle’s excessive speed remains under investigation.”

This morning at 8:51 a.m. the Porter County Coroner’s Office identified the deceased as Lauren Thompson, 24, of Valparaiso.

All lanes of travel were closed for approximately five hours while the PPD Crash Reconstruction Team conducted its on-scene investigation. “This is a preliminary summary of events and may change based upon newly discovered details during the course of this ongoing investigation,” the PPD said.

“We would like to thank the Portage Fire Department, Lutheran Air medical services, Precision Towing, Porter County Central Communications Center (911), and the Porter County Coroner’s Office for their assistance with this incident,” the PPD said. “The members of the Portage Police Department wish to extend our thoughts and sympathies to the family and friends of the deceased.”