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Ninety miles southwest of Chicago where silos instead of sidewalks fill the landscape, the people of Mendota are grieving a great loss. Four people in their 20s died in a single car crash around 4:30 a.m. Thursday. The fifth passenger is fighting for her life.

The LaSalle County Sheriff’s Dept says the driver lost control of the car, hit a mailbox and sped across the country road before sliding sideways down an embankment at a high rate of speed and becoming airborne. The SUV then landed in some trees. All five passengers were thrown from the vehicle.

All of the victims were between the ages of 20 and 24. Gregory Smith and his brother Daniel and Brenda Hampton, Robert Watson were pronounced dead at the scene. Amanda Blackwell, 19, of Plainfield is now being treated for serious injuries at Peoria hospital.

They were all close friends. And in a town with a population of only 7000 everybody knew them.

While the sheriff won’t say so, friends say alcohol was a major factor.

An autopsy will be performed tomorrow and toxicology reports won’t come in for weeks.