The mother of a woman tragically killed while celebrating her 23rd birthday is still “feeling angry” toward the man who was charged Tuesday with causing the crash that took her daughter’s life two days ealier.
But Andrea Poulos said she’s decided to speak out so soon after her daughter’s death because she wants people to know what a wonderful child she had.
“Everyone who knew her loved her,” she said.
Her daughter, Jamie Poulos, was returning home to Berwyn early Sunday with two friends after a night out in Boystown when when a drunken driver crashed into her Uber car in the outbound lanes of the Stevenson Expressway and set it aflame.
Authorities have charged 22-year-old Rami Matariyeh, of Homer Glen, with reckless homicide, aggravated DUI and leaving the scene of a crash. A judge ordered him held on $100,000 bail at a hearing Tuesday.
Cook County prosecutors said Matariyeh was on probation for a speeding violation at the time of the crash and did not provide aid for the victims — including a woman who was a passenger in his vehicle at the time of the crash.
“Believe me, I get that this kid did stupid stuff, but I don’t get the rest of it. When you know you shouldn’t be driving,” Andrea Poulos said. “That I can’t forgive.”
Poulos said she first tried to have some compassion for Matariyeh, but that became harder when she learned more details of the crash.
“The car you hit set on fire. You go there and try to do everything you can to help people ,” she said.
“I know he was pretty damn drunk, but you weren’t blacked out,” she said, based on the charges filed against Matariyeh. “You knew enough to grab your phone and get an Uber. And you left your passenger in the car, not giving a s— what happened to her.
“… It’s not just about me it’s about everybody who loved her. ”
Jamie Poulos’ longtime friend, Anastacio Morales, was riding in the front passenger seat when the crash occurred. Morales helped remove the 47-year-old driver and another friend, Alex Kariott, from the rear seat.
Poulos, though, was trapped inside and Morales, whose hands were burned in the attempt, was unable to get her out before the flames forced him away, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Alex was still being treated at Stroger Hospital for second-degree burns, but was talking and in good spirits.
Andrea Poulos said she wants people to recognize Morales’ heroism in the situation.
“I told him, ‘Don’t beat yourself up.’ What a brave thing he did,” she said. “‘You did everything you could; you’re a hero; and thank you for being her friend.’ I know what he’s going to be going through, and I wanted to ease that pain for him.”
Jamie Poulos, who studied at Morton College in Cicero, was a shift supervisor at Starbucks, and had previously worked at Jewel-Osco, she said. Many of her co-workers will be attending her funeral service Saturday at Suburban Family Funeral Home in Cicero from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., according to Poulos.
Morales’ sister, Guayni Quesada, said Morales, Kariott and Jamie Poulos had been friends since their freshman year at Morton West High School in Berwyn. All three had been involved in the school’s theater program and would hang out at each other’s houses after classes.
“They were always really close with each other,” Quesada said. “They would help each other, deal with all the things you help your friends with.”
Even after high school, when friends can sometimes drift apart, the three continued to remain close, Quesada said. Kariott is currently studying nursing and Poulos was about to start.
“She told my brother that night that it was the happiest night of her life,” Quesada said. “They were having a great time.”
Andrea Poulos said that knowing her daughter was living her best life before she died was helping with her grief.
“At least I know she was happy,” the mother said. “She had a good week: She had her birthday, she went to the Cubs game. That more than anything makes me feel better.”
And she’s proud of her daughter for doing the smart thing and hiring a car home — something that the accused drunk driver allegedly did not do.
“But it wasn’t enough to save her, because there are idiots out there who don’t do what they’re supposed to do,” she said.
A fundraiser posted to Facebook to help pay for memorial expenses for Jamie Poulos had already raised more than $10,000 as of Tuesday night.