Teacher Killed, Another Injured In Orland Park Hit-And-Run After Leaving Holiday Party

Bernie Tafoya
December 05, 2019 - 7:34 am
Rone Leja

Archdiocese of Chicago

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Two teachers leaving a staff holiday party were struck in a hit-and-run crash Wednesday night in Orland Park that left one dead and the other seriously injured. Police are still searching for the driver. 

At about 8 p.m., officers responded to a hit-and-run accident involving two pedestrians near the Square Celt Ale House and Grill, 39 Orland Square Dr., Orland Park police said. Two women were found injured and taken to Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox for treatment.

One of them, a 61-year-old woman, was later pronounced dead at the hospital, police said. The other woman, 54, received treatment and was later released.

The St. Michael School in Orland Park identified the women as 61-year-old Margaret "Rone Leja" and 54-year-old Elizabeth Kosteck, both teachers at the school. According to the school, Leja was the school's technology teacher and Kosteck is a third grade teacher.

St. Michael School Principal Paul Smith said Leja and Kosteck had just left a staff Christmas party at the Square Celt Ale House and Grill near the Orland Square Mall when they were hit by what Police Chief Tim McCarthy said was a light-colored vehicle.

Smith said Leja had only been at the school for a year and a half, but had a big impact on the students as the technology coach. Kosteck has been at St. Michael’s School for more than 20 years. She is recovering from her injuries at home.

He said Leja “worked with our kids one-on-one very often and our teachers, as well. She had been a longtime educator and so it’s a hard loss for our parish.”

Read the full St. Michael School message below:

Good evening,

It is with great sadness and shock that I send this message. This evening after our Parish Christmas party Mrs. Kosteck and Ms. Leja were walking to their cars and were struck by a vehicle. They were taken to the hospital and while Mrs. Kosteck sustained injuries, Ms. Leja passed away. The faculty and parish priests are currently at Silver Cross hospital gathered in prayer for our colleagues.

In light of this event, we will have a 9 a.m. start tomorrow, Thursday. Because of this, there will be no morning bus service. Our faculty is grieving the loss of their dear friend and colleague and will be gathering privately before school opens.

Upon the children's arrival, we will have a prayer service led by Fr, Frank.

We ask for your prayers in this time of sorrow. We will continue to keep you updated throughout the day.

St. Michael School assistant principal Maureen Morrissey said she was devastated when she heard the news Wednesday night. She had just returned home the staff party when she learned the news.

“Rone was absolutely wonderful. She was so kind and loving to everybody. She really made a huge impact on our students. She was friendly. She was warm and she will be absolutely dearly missed," she said.

Much of the staff and St. Michael’s three priests showed up to Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox where both women had been taken.

“There was a huge group of us there, which speaks volumes to how much Rone was loved. It was just us being together was comforting to be around those that we love in such a hard time," Morrissey said.

Police said they are searching for the vehicle involved in the incident, but did not give details on the car or driver other than that the car was "light colored."

"If you are driver of that vehicle, we WILL find you," Orland Park police posted on Facebook. "You can turn yourself in at the Orland Park Police Department or call us and we will provide the transportation."

Orland Park Police Chief Tim McCarthy said the driver who hit the two teachers had to have known he or she hit something, but kept going.

“We’ll be continuing to gather multiple videos from stores in the area, our own field cameras. We have significant leads already,” he said.

He said video has to be enhanced to get more information about the vehicle.

The police chief said the driver, “should have seen these people and should have avoided them. There’s no reason for this accident whatsoever.”

Chief McCarthy encourages the driver to turn him or herself in.

Anyone with information on the incident was asked to contact police at 708-349-4111 or by emailing crimetips@orlandpark.org.