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University of Illinois wrestler killed in car accident

University of Illinois campus in Champaign, Ill.

Francis Edelen, a member of the University of Illinois wrestling team, died late Wednesday night as a result of a car accident in Champaign County, the school’s athletic department announced Thursday. Edelen was 21.

Illinois State Police said Edelen was killed in a hit-and-run incident on I-57 near Rantoul, according to a report from The News-Gazette. Edelen was the driver in a two-car accident on the freeway around 9:40 p.m., then left the scene of the crash on foot for unknown reasons. He was later hit and killed by a car while walking in the right lane. That car fled from the scene.

“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. “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.”

Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman also expressed his sadness.

“Our hearts are broken by the news of Francis Edelen’s passing. 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.”

Edelen graduated from Oak Forest High School. The university will release more information on services and memorials at a later time.