U of I wrestler killed in interstate hit-and-run accident

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Authorities say a member of the University of Illinois wrestling team was killed in a hit-and-run accident in central Illinois.Illinois State Police said 21-year-old Francis Edelen died in the accident on Interstate 57 north of Rantoul on Wednesday night.

Trooper Tracy Lillard told The (Champaign) News-Gazette that Edelen was the driver of one of two vehicles involved in a crash and he left the scene on foot. Lillard says Edelen was hit and killed by an unknown vehicle just south of the first crash location. The trooper says the vehicle that hit Edelen left the scene.Illinois athletics officials say Edelen was a redshirt sophomore from Oak Forest, Illinois.

"This is shocking news for our team and coaching staff as no words can truly reflect the emotions that we are going through at this time," Illinois wrestling coach Jim Heffernan said in a statement issued by the school said. "Francis was a productive member of our program. We are extremely saddened by this news. We just released this news to our team, so the healing process after the loss of a teammate and friend has just begun."

Rantoul is about 15 miles north of Champaign.

The school said they will provide more information on services, condolences and memorials when they are available.

Anyone with information should contact Illinois State Police at 217-867-2050.

Read the athletic department's full statement:

The University of Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics is saddened and shocked to learn of the death of redshirt-sophomore student-athlete Francis Edelen, a member of the Illini wrestling team from Oak Forest, Illinois. Edelen was killed following a car accident in Champaign County late Wednesday evening. Our thoughts and prayers are extended to his family, friends and teammates during this difficult time.  

"This is shocking news for our team and coaching staff as no words can truly reflect the emotions that we are going through at this time," Illinois wrestling coach Jim Heffernan said. "Francis was a productive member of our program. We are extremely saddened by this news. We just released this news to our team, so the healing process after the loss of a teammate and friend has just begun."

"Our hearts are broken by the news of Francis Edelen's passing," Illinois Director of Athletics Josh Whitman said. "Losing someone so early in his life when he has so much yet to experience and to give is a tragedy of the highest order. Our thoughts are with Francis' family and friends. We will come together and draw strength from each other as an Illini family during this difficult time."
 
Illinois will provide more information on services, condolences and memorials when they are available.