UPDATE: Names released in St. Joseph County crash

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Three South Bend residents were killed Sunday after a crash on U.S. 31 in St. Joseph County.

It happened just before 2 p.m. near the intersection of U.S. 31 and Baughman Court.

Police say three vehicles, a van, SUV and truck, were involved in the crash.

Witnesses tell police that the blue mini-van was travelling north on 31 at high speed when it crossed the center line and struck an SUV. The SUV then spun out and was hit by a white Chevy Silverado.

“Like two pieces of steel hitting each other, you know, it was like a wham. It was a loud impact noise, like something fell from the sky almost,” explains neighbor Bill Bucholtz.

Those killed in the crash include the driver, Robert Hillers, 59, the front passenger, Judith Hillers, 54, and the rear passenger, Janice Cash, 56. All three are from South Bend.

The Hillers are husband and wife and Janice is a cousin that just moved in with the Hillers recently.

A family friend tells WNDU that the Hillers were traveling to the airport because they were going on vacation. Married for more than 20 years, they now leave behind five kids and four grandchildren.

Robert and his wife Judith were pronounced dead on the scene. Janice Cash died on the way to the hospital.

Judi worked with Beacon Health and the company released a statement saying, "We are all deeply saddened by the loss of our friend and co-worker, Judi Hillers. She was a wonderful colleague, a world-class clinician, and most of all a great friend to all who knew her. The thoughts and prayers of the entire Beacon Health System family are with Judi’s family and friends during this difficult time."

Investigators say Carlos Rios-Sanchez, 17, of South Bend was driving the mini-van. He had to be extricated from his vehicle by the fire department and was taken to the hospital, treated for serious injuries including a broken femur.

Police have identified the driver of the white Chevy Silverado as Kelly Carlson, 28, of Sparta, Michigan. He was treated at the scene for minor injuries and released.

Neighbors say this isn't the first accident they have seen on this stretch of highway. WNDU spoke with numerous people that shared very similar stories.

“It’s kind of almost normal. I have been here 10 years and within the 10 years there has probably been 10 fatalities in this stretch of highway from New Road to Roosevelt Road,” continues Bucholtz.

“I’ve had a friend here killed on this road, I have been in a wreck on this road itself right here. This one I will remember a while because this is like probably the worst one I have ever seen,” explains neighbor Gregory Williams.

At this time, neither drugs nor alcohol appear to be factors in the crash.

As standard procedure, all drivers in a fatal crash will be tested for the presence of drugs or alcohol. Our crash investigators are still interviewing witnesses and ask that anyone with additional information about the crash to please contact Capt. James Rutkowski at 235-9611.


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