Two die in crash near Hecker

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James M. Ellis Jr.

The Illinois State Police is investigating a three-vehicle, head-on crash with two fatalities that occurred about 11 p.m. Thursday in the 6100 block of State Route 159 near Nu-Deal Oil just north of Hecker.

Route 159 was closed in the area of the crash for multiple hours.

ISP said the vehicles involved were a 2016 Hyundai Sonata driven by Dale L. Claybrone Jr., 23, of Chicago, a 2009 Dodge Caravan driven by James M. “Mitch” Ellis Jr., 49, of Hecker, and a 2013 semi tractor-trailor driven by Jude A. Greco, 50, of Caseyville.

Police said that preliminary reports indicate the Hyundai was following the semi northbound on Illinois 159 in the area of Brick School Road. The Hyundai passed the semi and struck the southbound Dodge Caravan head-on. The Hyundai spun back into the northbound lanes and was struck by the semi.

Ellis and 24-year-old Ariah Claybrone of Memphis, Tenn. – who was a passenger in the Hyundai – died at the hospital from injuries sustained in the crash. Dale Claybrone remains hospitalized with serious injuries.

The crash remains under investigation.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Ellis was a St. Louis County police officer who was heading home from work when the crash occurred.

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