Family mourns loss of SIUC student killed in crash

By Bill Lukitsch, @Bill_LukitschDE

A memorial now rests on the side of the road where Ethan Baker was killed Saturday, surrounded by flowers, marked by an American flag and a small red cross. 

More than one dozen people had already left their signatures at the spot in the short time since first responders found 18-year-old Ethan Baker, of Carbondale, dead at the scene of a car accident Saturday. His parents, Amy and Douglas Baker, described their son as caring, fun-loving and kind.

“He was a friend to everyone,” his mother said Sunday.  

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Painted on the narrow road leading up to the Baker family home is an iconic Saluki paw print, a symbol of the university community intertwined with the southern Illinois region. A 2015 graduate of Carbondale Community High School, Baker was preparing to begin courses at SIUC this summer after completing the spring semester at John A. Logan Community College.

“He was really excited about that,” Douglas Baker said, adding that his son had recently finished the orientation and enrolled in classes.

Ethan Baker died in a single-vehicle crash early Saturday morning near the intersection of East Walnut Street and Bigler Road, according to Carbondale police. Police and firefighters responded to reports of the accident shortly after 3 a.m. and found a vehicle engulfed in flames. Ethan Baker, the sole victim of the fatal crash, was pronounced dead at the scene.

He would have celebrated his 19th birthday on Wednesday, his parents said.

University records show the 18-year-old was admitted to the university as a freshman studying biological sciences. It was a beginning step toward a career in medicine, said Douglas Baker. Eventually, he planned to attend the University of Nebraska, his father’s alma mater, for dental school.

“He wanted to follow in my footsteps,” said Douglas Baker, who owns a dental practice in town.   

The oldest of three children, Amy and Douglas Baker said their son was family-oriented; a caring older brother to his younger siblings, Hannah and Sam Baker, and close with his extended family members who live in southern Illinois.

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He had a passion for racing cars, his father said, and belonged to local automotive clubs Domestic Disturbance and Southern Illinois Imports. He rooted for the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers, the Green Bay Packers and the Salukis. He was also fond of animals — especially the family’s three dogs.

His parents said they encouraged him to pursue his interests in life and follow his own path. He ultimately decided that he wanted to help people.

That was his nature, Douglas Baker said.  

“He was just a kind soul,” he said.

Visitation for Ethan Baker is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Saturday at First United Methodist Church at 214 W. Main St. in Carbondale, with the service to follow immediately after.

Bill Lukitsch can be reached at [email protected] or 618-536-3229. 

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