Officer charged in crash that killed 2 friends

Friday, November 23, 2007

A Chicago police officer is charged with drunk driving after he was involved in a deadly crash. Thirty-three-year-old John Ardelean was off duty at the time of the accident. Two men, friends since the seventh grade, were killed.

The collision on Chicago's North Side left the two men in their 20s dead and a third injured.

Currently, Officer Ardelean has two tickets: a misdemeanor DUI and a traffic violation.

Officer Ardelean is stationed at the 19th District on the Northwest Side. Police officials say they cannot release Ardelean's picture because of an agreement the department has with the Fraternal Order of Police.

Police do say Ardelean is 33 years old, a five-year veteran of the force.

The accident happened early Thursday near Damen and Oakdale in the Roscoe Village neighborhood. Thanksgiving Day was a day of mourning and sadness for the two Cicero families of Erick Lagunas, 21, and 22-year-old Miguel Flores.

Families and friends gathered Thursday afternoon not to celebrate this holiday, but to provide support and love for one another, as they deal with the deaths.

"We are going to miss them so much," said victims' friend Lisa Martinez. "They were good people. They were great people."

Lagunas, Flores and another friend were in a Pontiac, traveling southbound on Damen, near Oakdale Avenue. At about 3 a.m., another driver was headed northbound in an SUV and, according to witnesses, was impatient, trying to pass another car.

"I saw the SUV, trying to go around another car. The car in front of it was going slow. I'm guessing the SUV didn't see the other car coming this way," said witness George Moreno.

"He should have been paying attention. He shouldn't have been in such a rush," said Gina Muntaner, another witness.

Seconds after the impact, the witnesses rushed to help the young men.

"I tried to help as much as I could. Then, I realized that they were dead. There was nothing I could do about it," said Moreno.

The family of Erick Lagunas gathered Thursday, and his father spoke to ABC7 Chicago through a family translator, saying Thanksgiving will never be the same. Jose Lagunas says his son was a good student who looked forward to working for the CTA and pursuing his education.

"We all knew Erick as a wonderful person. He was the son you always wanted. He knew what to say and do. He knew how to be a friend, a perfect son. And that's what he was to these people," said the translator speaking for Jose Lagunas.

It was a similar scene at the home of Miguel Flores.

"His aspirations were to finish college. He was going to study construction management. He had a bright future ahead of him," said Oscar Casas, a friend of Miguel.

ABC7 has not been able to reach Officer Ardelean nor his family for comment.

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