PORTAGE, Ind. — A Chesterton middle school teacher died following a six-vehicle crash Tuesday evening in Portage.

At around 5:45 p.m., authorities responded to the intersection of Willowcreek and Lute on the report of a crash involving six vehicles.

Portage police believe a 42-year-old man, driving a gray Cadillac SUV, was traveling at “an extreme speed” southbound on Willowcreek before rear-ending a GMC SUV stopped at a red light.

Police said that the GMC was struck with such force that it hit a third vehicle and caused secondary collisions between three other vehicles.

The driver of the GMC, 24-year-old Lauren Thompson, was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the Cadillac, a 42-year-old Portage man, was airlifted for serious head and internal injuries.

Thompson was in her second year of teaching English at Chesterton Middle School and the school community is “devastated.”

“Lauren was a shining star on the CMS faculty and was loved by her students and fellow staff members,” Principal Mike Hamacher said. “This is a great loss to our students, faculty, and staff members.”

Several parents are expressing sympathies on social media — saying that Thompson was a terrific educator.

“We are devastated,” Duneland School Corporation Supt. Chip Pettit said. “Our prayers go out to her husband and family. It is with great sorrow that we provide support and comfort to our students and staff.”

All lanes of travel were closed for approximately five hours.

Chesterton United Methodist Church is holding a candlelight vigil Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.