Driver hits two women on campus; one dies

By Anna Carrera

Published 10/09 2013 11:31AM

Updated 10/10 2013 11:01AM

Latest: 6:13 pm
URBANA -- Police have identified two of three people involved in Wednesday morning's accident. One victim has died after being struck by a pickup truck driving onto the sidewalk of Lincoln Avenue.

20-year old Spandana Mantravadi remains hospitalized and her injuries are not considered life-threatening. The other victim died at the hospital. Her identity has not been released, pending notification of her family.

The pickup truck was driven by 58-year old Willie Craft, Sr., of Urbana. Police say Craft was traveling south on Lincoln Avenue when his truck left the roadway several times, driving across a sidewalk, striking street signs and an occupied vehicle in traffic. The vehicle left the roadway again in the 1100-block and struck the two victims as they were walking on the sidewalk.

Craft was cited for improper lane usage and operating an uninsured motor vehicle. The investigation is ongoing.
Update: 5:20 pm
URBANA -- A man driving a pickup truck left a trail of damage on the UI campus. Police say two women, believed to be students, were hit and taken to the hospital. One victim has died, the other is in serious condition. Investigators roped off a half-mile stretch of Lincoln Avenue. WCIA-3's Anna Carrera has more.

The truck finally stopped close to Pennsylvania Avenue. Some people thought it was a hit-and-run accident, but they didn't realize how many things the driver hit before he finally stopped.

People working on campus say they've never seen a scene like it. A group of men were taking a break from working on the McKinley Health Center when they heard something loud.

"I thought it was an auto accident until I looked over and saw the girl get hit," said Spencer Holliger, who was working there. 

Then they realized two women were hit while walking on the sidewalk.

"We ran out behind the truck to see if the guy was stopping," said Kastroit Maloku, who was also working there. 

But, he didn't.

"I was going to call 911, but by the time I had my phone out, there were already two cops chasing after him," said Holliger. 

"The pickup truck was driving over up on the sidewalk, got back on the street, sideswiped a UI pickup truck across the street and continued southbound," said Urbana Police Lt. Robert Fitzgerald. 

Witnesses say the driver sped past, hitting cars, trees and street signs along the way. Investigators haven't confirmed how fast the driver was going, but people who saw it say it was too fast.

"Way too fast for a residential street," said Holliger. 

The driver finally stopped just north of Pennsylvania Avenue, but by then, the damage was already done.

"I'm hoping those students will be okay and pray for their families," said Maloku. 

Witnesses say a man at the scene was the driver of the pickup. Police were questioning him at that point, but he hadn't been arrested.
Update: 4:40 pm
URBANA -- Witnesses were shocked to see a pickup truck swerving on the UI campus Wednesday morning. The driver hit two women who were walking along the sidewalk on Lincoln Avenue.

One of the victims has died. The other is in critical condition.

Investigators roped off nearly a half-mile stretch of road. It started started near Nevada Street, where investigators say the driver hit a sign, and ended at Pennsylvania Avenue, where the pickup finally stopped.

Witnesses say they saw the truck speeding along Lincoln Avenue. Police haven't confirmed how fast the driver was going. One man says he was getting ready to call 911 when he saw a police car chasing it.

Investigators say the pickup was sideswiping other cars on the road, as well as hitting signs and trees. Witnesses say people had to act quickly to get out of the way.

Authorities spent the afternoon collecting evidence, talking to witnesses and searching for clues about how and why all of this happened. Witnesses say a man standing near the pickup truck was the driver. Officials say he was in custody at that time, but not under arrest.
Original: 11:30 am
URBANA -- Two women are in serious condition after being hit by a driver on the UI campus. It happened just before 10 am on Lincoln Avenue.

About a quarter mile of Lincoln Avenue is closed; Nevada to Pennsylvania will be blocked off for the next few hours. Police say an officer saw a pickup truck driving erratically on Lincoln, swerving onto sidewalks and back into the street.

That driver sideswiped a UI pickup and other cars then hit two women who were walking on the sidewalk in front of McKinley Health Center. Witnesses say they couldn't believe their eyes.

Investigators say they have the driver in custody but he hasn't been charged with anything at this point. Authorities can't confirm how fast he was driving.

Officials are still looking for clues along the route, so they're asking people to stay away from the area until it can be cleared.

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