SYCAMORE – Matthew Ranken always let his 5-year-old cousin, Gavin, play football in the yard when the other kids told him he was too little.
That memory was among the stories Ranken’s friends and family shared Thursday, the day after the 11-year-old fifth-grader at North Elementary School in Sycamore died from injuries he suffered in a four-vehicle crash in Kane County. They also remembered him coming home from school to watch “SpongeBob SquarePants” on one TV while playing the “Call of Duty: Black Ops” video game on another.
“He was very sweet,” said his aunt, Tammy Dean.
His classmates made cards mentioning his good heart and his sense of humor, North Principal Kathy Spiewak said. An avid John Deere and Bears fan, Ranken loved to play football, ride his dirt bike and fish.
According to a news release from the Kane County Sheriff’s Office, Ranken was riding in the back seat of a 1999 Chevrolet Cavalier driven by his brother, Nicholas Weber, 21, of Sycamore. They were westbound on Route 64 near Peplow Road about 7:30 p.m. Wednesday when they stopped for traffic backed up because of a crash about a mile away.
A 1999 Ford Expedition driven by 28-year-old Benjamin Black of Sycamore crashed into the back of the stopped Cavalier, pushing it into a Buick Lucerne, police said. The Lucerne went onto the shoulder and the Cavalier struck a Hyundai, police said.
Ranken, Weber and another passenger in the Cavalier were taken to Kishwaukee Community Hospital, where Ranken died, police said. Weber and Teale Noble, 18, of Sycamore, were treated for injuries that were not life-threatening, police said.
Black was cited for failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident and driving without insurance, police said.
Sycamore School District 427 administrators notified parents of Ranken’s death and had substitute teachers on hand Thursday to relieve any teachers who needed a break.
Substitute teachers also allowed North’s two fifth-grade teachers time to focus on helping grieving students, Superintendent Kathy Countryman said.