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Neighbors, family fondly remember St. Charles couple killed in crash

Published: Saturday, May 23, 2009 10:41 a.m. CDT • Updated: Sunday, May 24, 2009 6:10 a.m. CDT
An investigator takes notes following a multi-vehicle crash at Route 47 and Smith Road near Elburn. Two motorcyclists were killed and six people were injured. (Photo by Eric Schelkopf - eschelkopf@kcchronicle.com)

Wade and Denise Thomas had told their neighbors on Division Street in St. Charles they would be back from their motorcycle ride in time to watch the Chicago Cubs face off against the San Diego Padres Saturday night.

They never made it. Wade, 44, and Denise, 45, were killed in a multi-vehicle crash at Route 47 and Smith Road near Elburn at about 8:30 a.m. Saturday.

"It's not going to be the same without them," said neighbor Kathi Hrubec as she fought back tears.

Hrubec and other neighbors had a tradition of watching sports games in Wade Thomas' garage.

The married couple was killed in a chain-reaction crash between six motorcycles and three cars. They were pronounced deceased at the scene by fire department personnel.

The couple was on a motorcycle ride to Wisconsin. An Aurora woman was ticketed for failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident.

Neighbors were still in shock Saturday afternoon.

"We all went out to dinner Friday night at The Little Owl," said neighbor and friend Tom Lennon. "He was a great guy. We helped each other out."

Wade Thomas was a longtime St. Charles resident. His family moved to St. Charles in 1966.

"To everyone he was a man, but to me he still was a kid," said his mother, Vivian Thomas.

He had five children ages 13 to 27 and three step-sons.

"He loved his motorcycle," she said. "He was always cautious. That's what they both enjoyed. She loved it as much as he did."

The initial investigation by the Kane County Sheriff's Office revealed that a black Cadillac was southbound on Route 47 and the driver stopped at Smith Road waiting to turn left.

A Honda Civic was stopped behind the Cadillac. The vehicles were waiting for a large group of motorcycles northbound on Route 47 to go past the intersection.

While the cars were waiting, a Toyota Alera that was also traveling southbound on Route 47 behind the stopped vehicles failed to stop and struck the rear of the Honda, according to Lt. Pat Gengler, public information officer for the Kane County Sheriff's Office.

That impact caused the Honda to enter into the northbound lane of traffic. The Toyota eventually struck the rear of the Cadillac.

When the Honda entered the northbound lane of traffic, the group of motorcyclists had not yet cleared the intersection. It appears that six of the motorcycles either struck the Honda or were struck by the Honda, Gengler said.

The driver of the Toyota, Alia N. Bernard, 24, of Aurora, was ticketed for failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident.

"It is not clear what caused the driver of the Toyota to stop and it is unclear if drugs or alcohol played a role in this crash," Gengler said.

Five people were taken to Delnor Hospital in Geneva and a sixth person was airlifted to Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove. None of them suffered life-threatening injuries, Gengler said.

None of the injured riders were wearing helmets, Gengler said. Illinois does not have a helmet law.

Authorities have not yet released the names of those who were injured.

Dan Ovadenko heard the crash while he was in the kitchen of his girlfriend's house, who lives near the intersection of Smith Road and Route 47.

"It was an unbelievable sound," Ovadenko said.

Ovadenko, 48, has been riding motorcycles for 15 years.

"I really feel for these guys," he said. "It's terrible for this to happen."

He doesn't like riding in packs.

"You are so close together," Ovadenko said. "There is no room to get out of the way."

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