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Pequot Lakes community mourns deaths of sisters in Illinois crash

A family lost two daughters Saturday, March 19, after their utility terrain vehicle was struck by a pickup truck in Tazewell County, Illinois.

Sarae and Ashley Embree smile at the camera.
Sisters Sarae, left, and Ashley Embree died Saturday, March 19, 2022, in a utility terrain vehicle crash in Illinois.
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PEQUOT LAKES — Two Pequot Lakes sisters died Saturday, March 19, after a pickup truck struck the utility terrain vehicle they were riding in Tazewell County, Illinois.

The Tazewell County Sheriff's Office responded to the crash reported about 4:50 p.m. south of Tremont in central Illinois.

According to the Peoria Journal Star , Sheriff Jeff Lower said two people died and six people suffered injuries in the crash at Townline and Locust roads, about 4 miles south of Tremont. A truck was headed west on Townline and the UTV was southbound on Locust when they collided.

On Monday evening, the Tazewell County Coroner's Office identified the two victims as 22-year-old Ashley Embree and 16-year-old Sarae Embree, both of Pequot Lakes. Both died of multiple blunt force injuries due to the collision. The woman and girl were passengers in the UTV.

The Echo Journal reported that Ashley and Sarae, daughters of Brent and Katie Embree, of Pequot Lakes, traveled to Illinois with their mom and grandma to spend time with extended family.

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It appeared the people on the UTV were headed home, which was near the crash location, Lower said.

"At first glance, it appears the UTV ran the stop sign, but until further investigation, we have no solid evidence yet," Lower told the Journal Star. "Everyone in this UTV was related, from what we understand, and we are trying to respect the family's time to grieve."

A total of seven people were in the UTV, including the two people who died. The male driver of the pickup truck was also injured, the sheriff said. Four people — three from the UTV and the truck driver — were transported to OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, Illinois.

Pequot Lakes High School Principal Aaron Nelson said Monday the school was planning a celebration of life for when students return to classes next week after this week’s spring break.

Nelson said the event will be a way for students to process the tragedy and talk amongst themselves and with others.

A date and time have yet to be set for the celebration of life.

A GoFundMe to help the family cover funeral costs was set up by John Urseth of Pequot Lakes after he heard about the tragedy.

“I heard about the news on Sunday and was blown away,” Urseth said in a message to the Dispatch. “While we might not have been close friends there is a certain bond everyone in this community shares. When something tragic happens we are reminded of that bond by how everyone in our community comes together in all kinds of ways to show their support. I felt that the Embree family could use a reminder of that bond right now and I wanted to create a way we all can show that we are there for them. There is also something about laying to rest a child that doesn’t sit right with me and to have to even think about finding the funds to send your child off in a proper manner is something I hope no parent ever has to experience in their life.”

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The Pequot Lakes Revolution Dance Team shared the following on its Facebook page Monday: “Ashley was a true light in this world. Her laughter infectious and her heart full for all she did. We are so blessed to have known her, coached her and danced with her. Ashley, we miss and love you. We will dance again with you one day. Until then, keep the floor warm.

“Our prayers are with the Embree family as they mourn the loss of their two daughters. We wish them love and healing during this most difficult time.”

Eric Holst, spiritual formation pastor at Timberwood Church in Nisswa, where the Embree family attends, said the Embrees have been some of his family’s dearest friends for the past 12 years. Holst spent time Monday with the Embree family at their Pequot Lakes home.

“Ashley, Sarae and Carter have been my kids’ first friends since we moved north even to this day. The loss of these two girls has been and will continue to break my heart wide open over and over for years to come,” Holst wrote in an email to the Echo Journal about the sisters and their brother, Carter, a 2020 Pequot Lakes High School graduate.

The crash remains under investigation by the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office, the Illinois State Police and the Tazewell County Coroner’s Office.

Visitation for Ashley and Sarae will be from 5-7 p.m. Monday, March 28, with funeral services at 1 p.m. Tuesday, March 29, at Timberwood Church in Nisswa. In lieu of flowers, the family is accepting donations for a future memorial foundation.

Four extended family members were injured in the accident and hospitalized — the sisters’ cousin, Jordan Embree, and his three young children, including a 2-year-old son who remains hospitalized with critical injuries, including a brain injury. Jordan Embree, a Pequot Lakes High School graduate, was released from the hospital.

The GoFundMe to help the family cover funeral costs may be found at gofund.me/b6d31aa4 .

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TIM SPEIER, staff writer, can be reached on Twitter @timmy2thyme , call 218-855-5859 or email tim.speier@brainerddispatch.com .

Tim Speier joined the Brainerd Dispatch in October 2021, covering Public Safety.
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