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New groom, Hobart teacher killed by vehicle in Crown Point

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Updated: December 17, 2013 12:38AM

A Crown Point man and a Hobart teacher were struck and killed by three cars late Saturday night after he pulled over to help assist her disabled vehicle in Crown Point.

William Riley Knight, 49, had been married just hours before. He and his wife, Nikki, were driving to a hotel about 11:45 p.m. when they stopped to help Linda Darlington, 42, whose car was in a ditch.

Knight’s wife, Nikki, was waiting in the car which Knight had parked in a nearby driveway while he went to help.

“He said, ‘We’ve got to stop, it’s late and they need help,’” his bride, Nikki Knight, recalled on Sunday.

The Lake County Sheriff’s Department Traffic Reconstruction Unit determined that Darlington’s vehicle had gone off 109th Avenue near Lane Street around 11:45 p.m. As Darlington exited the vehicle and made her way up the embankment, Knight stopped his car to offer assistance.

Darlington and Knight were standing by the side of the road when they were struck by a passenger vehicle eastbound on 109th Avenue. Two vehicles following the first also ran over Darlington and Knight. The victims, both Crown Point residents, were pronounced dead at the scene at 12:41 a.m., due to blunt force trauma, according to the Lake County coroner’s office.

All of the drivers and vehicles remained on scene for police. Field sobriety tests were conducted, but there were no signs of alcohol use. No citations or arrests were made, though the crash remains under investigation.

Nikki Knight said she heard a thud when the first car struck her husband and Darlington; it looked like the car had driven over a lump of snow.

“I went from a being a newlywed to a widow in less than 48 hours — the highest high to the lowest low,” Nikki said. “It’s a blur.”

Knight, who went by his middle name Riley, served as a U.S. Army Ranger in the 82nd Airborne Division for about 12 years, including foreign tours of duty in Operation Desert Storm, Nikki said. Since then he had worked as a heat treating specialist in northwest Indiana, she said.

The Knights’ wedding ceremony took place at 5 p.m. earlier that evening, Nikki said.

On her husband’s Facebook page, Nikki posted a statement Sunday describing him as “the type of person who was willing to risk his life to help someone else.” She also asked for privacy as her family deals with the tragedy.

Elaine McDermott-Keating, who now lives in Cleveland, knew Darlington when they were in the same grade at Lake Central High School. They now kept up with each other through Facebook. Darlington taught at Joan Martin Elementary School in Hobart.

“My memories of her were that I knew she was a good person. She was always high-energy,” McDermott-Keating said. “She was into getting healthy; she had just talked about going to a Crossfit class (Saturday). Just a normal, nice good person.”

The School City of Hobart posted a tribute to Darlington on its website with a photo of her visiting Mount Rushmore. “Mrs. D was proud to be a Brickie through and through. She was very dedicated to her students and well respected by her colleagues,” a story on the website stated.

Riley Knight’s drama teachers at Lake Central, Angie and Paul Lowe, watched him grow from a squirrelly young man to a fearless performer who made singing look effortless — and a good man who would help anyone if they needed it.

Knight performed in five productions with L’Arc en Ciel Theatre Group, the group the Lowes formed after retiring from the school. Angie Lowe remembered Knight bringing down the house with the song “Mamaw” from the musical “Pump Boys and Dinettes.”

“He had such amazing wit and comic timing, yet could handle serious dramatic roles well, too,” she said.

“He loved his friends, family, and country immeasurably. And he had an infectious laugh.”

In addition to his wife, Knight is survived by two his two daughters, a stepdaughter and stepson.

Post-Tribune staff writer Carole Carlson, correspondent Michelle Quinn and Sun-Times Media contributed to this report.

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