EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – A multi-vehicle theft from a Wood River car dealership led to the death of a 14-year-old who was driving one of the stolen cars early Tuesday morning.
According to the Illinois State Police, the incident began with a break-in at Frederico Chrysler Dodge in Wood River. Four cars were stolen, police said; three of the vehicles were there for service and one belonged to the dealership.
“An officer from Roxana was in the general area. He observed several of the vehicles traveling at a high rate of speed going down IL-255. There’s some suspicion there that these two cars may have actually hit one another and may have caused the crash,” Wood River Police Chief Brad Wells said.
Two of the drivers crashed on southbound IL-255 at Gateway Commerce Ctr. Drive shortly after 1 a.m. One of the cars ended up submerged in a drainage canal at a nearby industrial park.
The Roxana police officer who trailed the stolen vehicles saw one of the drivers swimming in the canal just after the crash. The officer got into the water to try and save the driver but was unable to locate him.
Rescue divers recovered the driver’s body from the bottom of the canal about three hours later. Illinois State Police identified the deceased suspect as Harry Linnen Jr. of St. Louis.
Police said the other stolen car overturned, ejected the driver, and stopped short of the water. That suspect, who was also a juvenile male, was treated at a hospital and eventually released.
A third car was recovered in St. Louis Tuesday afternoon.
According to police, all of the suspects were juveniles. Their names have not been released. No criminal charges have been announced as of yet.
Investigators were looking into leads on the location of the fourth car and whether the same group of suspects was connected to an earlier carjacking on the St. Louis side of the river.