Stillman Accident 1

Emily Fleming (L) attending one of the many activities she took part in at SVHS. The Tempo and Gazette newspapers send condolences to her family and friends during this tragic time.

By Doug Schroder Editor and Chris Johnson Reporter

STILLMAN VALLEY – On Friday night, Sept. 4, the Stillman Valley Cardinals canceled their football game. Prior to kick-off, a tragic accident involving three Stillman Valley students and the driver of a pickup truck led to the decision to postpone all activities.

Just before 6 p.m. a car carrying three Stillman Valley High School cheerleaders, going to the game at Stillman Valley High that night, was traveling west on Big Mound Road when, as witnesses reported, the car ran a stop sign at the intersection of Route 251 and collided with a pickup traveling south on 251.

When emergency crews arrived the pickup was engulfed in flames. The driver of the pickup, 64-year old Andy Conderman of Amboy, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Rockford Memorial’s Lifeline helicopter was called in to transport Stillman cheerleader Emily Fleming to the hospital. Unfortunately, Emily passed away en route to the hospital.

The shock waves of this incident are not only felt by the friends and family involved. Those across the stateline are also saddened by what happened. Rock Valley Publishing reporter Chris Johnson acquired sentiments from a few area football coaches.

It is a terrible thing, sad, according to Oregon Head Coach John Bothe.

“It’s always a sad situation. It’s shocking. In life, sometimes, young people aren’t always equipped to handle this. They can understand, easier, the passing of a grandma, or a grandpa, or perhaps someone who has been sick. This is difficult.”

The accident involving four people remains under investigation through various law enforcement agencies.

Byron Head Coach Jeff Boyer said he heard about the news and spoke with Mike Lalor, Stillman Valley’s veteran leader.

“Earlier, I spoke with Coach Lalor and passed along our condolences for the community and the school. I know, right now, things are definitely hard. I think a community comes together and supports each other in such tragedies. It’s okay to mourn, I would say. Stay strong, be a family, a community. Just be there for each other. That’s the best advice I could offer.”

When the accident was reported, area games were well underway, including in Harvard, where the Winnebago Indians battled in a Big Northern crossover game. Indians Head Coach Mark Helm said as halftime approached, he heard the news.

The accident, tragically, reinforced the idea that football is just a game, according to the Winnebago Head Coach.

“At halftime of our game, I was notified that Stillman Valley wasn’t going to play. Myself, as a Driver’s Ed teacher, it scares me because it’s just one of those things, terrible things. It puts life into perspective. Now with me expecting my second child, even I look at things differently. Football is just a game. This tragedy is life and death. It’s not on the same level. We can only wish the best for their families and the community.”

The Cardinals Head Coach said he and a group of administrators and leaders decided to cancel the Friday night game.

“There is a lot of healing underway. The game needed to be canceled. I think it’s one of those things that you just simply try to be there for the kids, the community. For the young kids, we can only hope to, as soon as we can, try to get back to a normal routine. That’s kind of easier said than done, though. We ultimately try to focus on how those who we lost, lived. What they brought to this world. We will remember.”

According to the Cardinals Head Coach, he knows there will be a process that will have to be worked through, steps, which will have to be taken. Counseling and other services have already been made available, according to Lalor.

“Things take time, there’s no right or wrong way to speed things up, like healing. You go through the initial shock and the real emotions start pouring out. There is a lot of replaying, when you look at a person’s life and what they stood for, who they were. This tragedy is uncharted waters for a lot of us. We had counselors in on Saturday, we have individuals and groups working with people, the churches are helping.

The community is working together.”

Lalor said, in situations such as this, involving loss of life, young life, the best medicine is joining together.

“It’s such a tragedy. The community has already been coming together, we’ll get back to football later.”

Meridian School District sent out a press release on Monday, Sept. 7 that stated the following:

“The Meridian School District would like to provide updates relating to the tragic car accident occurring Friday night. First and foremost, MCUSD 223 extends our thoughts and sympathy to the families of Emily Fleming and the other community who tragically lost their lives. The other two students involved in the accident are both progressing in their recovery. While the road to recovery remains long, both students are making daily progress. Progress has been such that one of the students is now able to continue her recovery at home.

“Kishwaukee Church will host the Visitation on Wednesday from 3 to 8 p.m. and the Memorial Service will take place at Stillman Valley High School at 6 p.m. on Thursday. Meridian CUSD 223 has postponed all district athletic contests until memorial services are completed. Additionally, the Board of Education has canceled its three scheduled meetings for this week and will re-schedule at a later time.

“As school begins again we will have the support of many local area districts through their counselors being on hand to support our faculty, staff, and students. This journey toward healing has just begun and we continue to ask for privacy. Superintendent PJ Caposey will answer any and all questions that he can for the media as they arise.”

“Please respect the privacy of our Stillman Valley students, families, and staff as we work through this difficult process.”

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