CHICAGO (CBS) — A drunk driver fled the scene of a fiery crash on the Stevenson Expressway on Sunday, after slamming into the back of an on-duty Uber vehicle, killing 23-year-old Jamie Poulos, who was trapped inside the burning car, police said.
Rami Matariyeh, 22, has been charged with reckless homicide, aggravated DUI, leaving the scene of a crash causing death, and leaving the scene of a crash causing great bodily injury. Illinois State Police said he was arrested Sunday at his home in Homer Glen, after he left the scene of the crash on Interstate 55.
Police said Matariyeh was driving a white Infiniti sedan in the southbound lanes of the Stevenson Expressway around 3:20 a.m. Sunday, when he rear-ended an on-duty Uber vehicle at Damen Avenue.
The Uber, a Hyundai sedan, burst into flames after the crash, and one of the passengers, Anastacio Morales, tried to save the driver and other two passengers from the burning car.
“I couldn’t wait. The flames were growing. I saw the flames growing, and my instincts and my fear was that the car was going to blow up,” Morales said.
He was able to pull out the driver and one of his fellow passengers, but Poulos was trapped, and died of her injuries.
“She was unresponsive. She wasn’t screaming, she wasn’t moving or anything. Her legs were pinned. The flames were too much, at this point. My efforts weren’t enough, and I couldn’t get her out of the car,” Morales said.
Matariyeh’s passenger also was injured in the crash, and was taken to the hospital, but Matariyeh fled the scene, according to Illinois State Police.
Will County Sheriff’s police helped Illinois State Police track Matariyeh to his home in Homer Glen. As police were outside the residence, another ride share driver told them he had a passenger in the backseat who had passed out. Deputies woke up and spoke with the passenger, who identified himself as Matariyeh.
Police said Matariyeh appeared to be drunk and was belligerent and slurring his words.
Matariyeh was due to appear for a bond hearing on Tuesday. He also is an Uber driver, but was not on duty at the time.
Poulos’ mother said Jamie had been celebrating her 23rd birthday over the weekend. She described her daughter as a “perfect child,” and said she didn’t want Morales to feel guilty for Jamie’s death.
“I told him I don’t want him to feel bad, because he tried and he was a good friend to her,” Andrea Poulos said.
The Poulos family are Orthodox Christians, and had big plans to celebrate Orthodox Easter Sunday before they got the news about Jamie.
“Our hearts go out to the victim’s family and everyone impacted by this terrible incident. We stand ready to assist law enforcement with their investigation,” an Uber representative said in a written statement.
Another passenger of the Uber, Alex Kariott, is currently being treated for severe burns at Stroger Hospital.
Morales and another passenger, 22-year-old Alex Kariott, were taken to the hospital to be treated for their injuries from the crash. Karriott suffered severe burns.
After the court appearance, Guayni Quesada, a sister of one of the victims, gave an emotional plea.
“He was drinking and driving, seriously guys, stop drinking and driving,” She said. “What is the problem? I am not going to stop until we get justice for Jamie.”