Former OPRF student dies in South Africa car accident


Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter

By Ashley Lisenby

Digital Editor

Rachel Smylie died in a single-car crash, April 7, in Namibia. According to a source, she was traveling with four students in a rented vehicle at the time of the accident. The other four students, though their conditions are unknown at this time, reportedly survived the crash.

The 2011 graduate of Oak Park and River Forest High School, former volleyball and lacrosse player, and a junior at the University of Michigan, was spending her spring semester studying abroad in Cape Town.

"She was as beautiful on the inside as she was on the outside," said neighbor Kelly Bonaccorsi.

Bonaccorsi described Rachel, her children's former babysitter, as vivacious, engaging, outgoing, adventurous and very smart.

"The whole community is devastated," said Bonaccorsi.

Neighbors and friends placed candles outside of Frank Lloyd Wright's Hills-DeCaro House, the Smylies' home, Monday night, said family friend Diana Rasche. 

Rachel's father, Mark Smylie, was home and came outside for a few minutes while neighbors gathered, said Rasche. 

Her father, mother, two sisters and brother-in-law visited Rachel in Cape Town a week or so prior to her death.

Smylie is survived by her mother and father, Sallie and Mark, and sisters Lauren Smylie Gage and Anna Smylie.

The Wednesday Journal would like to create a photo gallery to commemorate Rachel Smylie. If you would like to submit a photo of Rachel or of you with Rachel for the gallery, please email it to You must own the rights to or have permission to use the photo you submit.

Reader Comments

25 Comments - Add Your Comment

Note: This page requires you to login with Facebook to comment.

Comment Policy

lou mcwilliams from roswell, ga  

Posted: April 16th, 2014 11:48 AM

our thoughts and prayers are with you all at this time. such a terrible loss for all. much love, lou and tim mcwilliams

April from Oak Park  

Posted: April 15th, 2014 6:06 PM

Dear Mark & Family, I was so, so sad to hear this awful news. I remember Rachel lining up with the other first graders outside of Holmes. I wish there was something/anything I could do. My prayers are with you, April Nauman (Mark's former student)

Jane Maine de Biran from Briarcliff NY  

Posted: April 14th, 2014 4:22 PM

Dear Smylie Family, I just wanted to express our deepest sympathies and heartfelt grief over your loss of Rachel - well everyone's loss actually - y daughter Mia is now in Capetown on the same program Rachel was on and she said that Rachel was a popular, well know gal and everyone loved her. We had just returned to the US the day we heard the sad news. We want you to know that you are in our hearts, minds and prayers. Warmest regards Jane, Larry, Christian and Mia

Allison Hennings  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 1:30 PM

Rachel will be missed- she was an amazing person. I am so sorry for this family's loss. I spent much time with Rachel when she was a student at OPRF and I will always remember her laughter and amazing smile.

Abbey Rosenwinkel from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 11:34 AM

My heart hurts dearly for the Smylie Family. Know that you are all in my thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. I pray that you may remember the joy and light that Rachel brought to those around her and I pray that you may find comfort in friends and family.

Lauren Lee  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 8:44 AM

I am so terribly sorry for this family's loss. I did not have the pleasure of knowing Rachel, but my heart feels for her family. My daughter was studying in Cape Town this time last year as a college junior. Given the reactions of Rachel's OPRFHS friends and the community, she must have been a truly wonderful young lady. from chicago  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 4:03 AM

Deeply saddened by this terrible tradegy. This was my 1st childhood friend. My heart goes out to the Smylie Family and Friends.

Kia from Oak Park Il  

Posted: April 9th, 2014 10:49 PM

My condolences go out to the Smylie family and my son, Tommy. I will miss having Rachel in my home. I will miss her beautiful smile and her great big hugs. My heart is heavy. Rest in peace. I love you.

Kira Elert from Chicago  

Posted: April 9th, 2014 10:19 PM

My heart aches for you...I cannot imagine your loss. What a beautiful girl who lived the wonderful life you gave her.

Carolyn from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: April 9th, 2014 6:41 PM

I met Rachel this past summer when she visited with my son, Trinian. She was a warm, genuine young lady with great poise. My heart aches for you , her family. May you find comfort knowing how she touched many!

Gary and Carole Sullivan from River Forest  

Posted: April 9th, 2014 4:39 PM

We are so deeply saddened for your, the world's, loss Mark, Sallie and girls. We remember the fun times at OPRF watching the girls compete. Treasured moments forever friends.

Betty Yoffee from Warrington  

Posted: April 9th, 2014 4:15 PM

To Rachel's family and friend's please accept our sincere sympathy. Our daughter is also studying abroad in South Africa. She was also in Namibia for Spring Break. However, she was traveling with a different group. This is a parents worse nightmare! We are so sorry for your loss. .

Wesley, Katherine & Anthony Lee from Chicago, IL  

Posted: April 9th, 2014 1:40 PM

We have no words, but you do have our hearts.

Celia Martin from Oak Park  

Posted: April 9th, 2014 12:34 PM

I can't express how sorry I was to hear about Rachel. I have good memories of spending time at the Smylie house when I was a kid. My heart goes out to you all.

patti kukula chyinski from grosse pointe woods  

Posted: April 9th, 2014 10:04 AM

Our daughter is in Capetown studying at CPU until June. She sent me this article. I just got back myself from our visit with her. She and the students are praying for your family. There are 600 Students Abroad studying in Cape Town. Our prayers and condolences on this horrible event

Taijuan Williams from River Forest  

Posted: April 9th, 2014 9:23 AM


Marla carter from River Forest, Il  

Posted: April 9th, 2014 9:20 AM

I am so sorry to hear about the loss of Rachel. We visited Cape Town when our daughter studied abroad. You are wonderful parents who allowed your daughter to spread her wings and explore the world.

Diana RAsche from Oak Park  

Posted: April 9th, 2014 9:10 AM

We are all devastated by this tragic loss for this wonderful family. The people in the neighborhood are extending our arms and hearts to the Smylie family during this time of grief.

Briners from Long beach, NY and Ypsilanti,Mi  

Posted: April 8th, 2014 9:17 PM

It's such a sad situation, she always had such a contagious smile and great attitude. Prayers and thoughts to her loved ones and the oak park community.

colleen hay from northville  

Posted: April 8th, 2014 9:12 PM

I'm so sorry for the loss of your beautiful daughter. My daughter was a sorority sister of Rachel's for 1 short year, but Rachel made an impact on my daughter. My daughter said Rachel was such a genuine girl; someone everyone loved. My husband and I lost a daughter when she was 19 months old, so I felt I needed to reach out and send my sympathy to your family. Hold each other close and just take it day by day. Praying that good memories of Rachel ease the pain you are feeling. RIP Rachel.

Amanda from Ann Arbor   

Posted: April 8th, 2014 8:32 PM

Praying for her family and friends. She was such a beautiful girl, and it's clear that she touched the lives of so many people.

Taylor from Chicago   

Posted: April 8th, 2014 7:55 PM

This is so sad I will be praying for her family during this sad time.

Poppy Vogel and family  

Posted: April 8th, 2014 6:30 PM

Such a bright light. We wish the family peace and love during this difficult time.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: April 8th, 2014 5:24 PM

Heartbreaking. Prayers of peace and comfort for her family and friends.


Posted: April 8th, 2014 4:30 PM

May she rest in peace and sincere condolences to her family.

Facebook Connect

Answer Book 2017

To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2017 Answer Book, please click here.

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Oak Park and River Forest.

MultimediaContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor
Place a Classified Ad

Classified Ad