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Woman killed in hit-run while trying to save teen

A man crosses Church road Corperate Blvd Aurorwhere TheresM. Burns 57 was struck killed by car Monday January 21 2013.

A man crosses Church road at Corperate Blvd in Aurora where Theresa M. Burns, 57, was struck and killed by a car on Monday, January 21, 2013. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 24, 2013 6:23AM

AURORA — Police are investigating a hit-and-run crash that killed a woman as she tried to rescue a troubled teenager sitting in traffic on an Aurora roadway.

The victim, Theresa M. Burns, 57, of the 700 block of South River Road, Des Plaines, was struck by a 1997 Chevrolet GEO Metro on Church Road just north of Corporate Boulevard at 5:33 p.m. Monday.

The driver of the car fled the scene on foot, leaving the GEO behind. Police said they have a good idea of the driver’s identity, but had not found him as of late Tuesday.

Burns was a staff member at Northern Illinois Academy, a home and school for people with psychiatric problems, at 988 Corporate Blvd. on Aurora’s northeast side.

Burns was trained in working with residents in the midst of an emotional crisis, according to her employer. She apparently was in the roadway assisting another staff member in removing an 18-year-old female student who had run from the school and was sitting in the southbound traffic lanes on Church Road, police said.

The southbound GEO Metro struck both Burns and the co-worker, a 25-year-old Plainfield man.

Burns was pronounced dead at the scene. Her injured co-worker was treated and released from an Aurora hospital. No one else was hurt in the incident, police said.

Burns and her co-worker were able to move the teen to safety before they were struck, said Ed Irby, vice chairman of Sequel Youth and Family Services, the mental health system that operates the Northern Illinois Academy.

Burns worked for the academy for about a year and was respected by residents and fellow staff, Irby said.

“She was well trained in the use of de-escalation dialogue when dealing with residents experiencing emotional crisis,” Irby said Tuesday evening. “This is a huge loss to both Theresa’s family and all of us.”

On her Facebook page, Burns wrote that she was fun-loving, and cherished time spent with friends and family.

She worked in the social work field for many years, she wrote, and believed in helping those who needed help and protecting children.

Sequel Youth and Family Services will perform an investigation into the circumstances preceding the death and have put a crisis response team in place at the academy, Irby said.

Anyone with information is asked to call Aurora Police Traffic Investigators at 630-256-5330.

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