Members of a family well-known in the area for their barbecue restaurants, are reeling after a collision killed two people close to them over the weekend.
The crash was shortly before 1 a.m. Sunday. East Moline Police responded to the area of Kennedy Drive and 20th Avenue to report to a crash with injuries. Officers located two vehicles, one of which was on its side. Both the East Moline Fire Department and Genesis-Illini EMTs arrived to treat injuries.
Police say 53-year old Tonya Franks of East Moline was the driver of the other car. After the crash, Franks was extricated from the vehicle and transported to Genesis-Illini Hospital in Silvis. The two occupants of the second vehicle, 31-year-old Elias E. Rocha and Alexia B. DeWalsche, were pronounced dead at the scene.
We spoke with the family of Alexia DeWalsche. Tammy DeWalsche, her mother, and her cousin Adrian Rocha, shared with Local 4 News how hard it’s been for them during this time.
“It’s hard to process what’s happened and it feels so unreal,” said Alexia’s cousin Adrian.
“You think lightning strikes once but it can strike a lot more. There’s not words to say or nothing I can do that they’ll ever be back,” Tammy said. “But I am so so grateful for being able to know that I had them in my life.”
In 2020, Alexia took ownership of Damion’s Rib Haven immediately after the loss of her father, Damion. Alexia and her fiancé Elias ran the business together.
“Lexi and Alias were like the backbone to this restaurant,” Adrian said. “They did such a good job running it and such a good job in keeping the legacy from Jim’s Rib Haven to Damion’s Rib Haven going.”
“And they just loved the restaurant business – they both did – and they just worked so well together,” said Tammy.
Others remember Alexia and Elias’s teamwork, too. Local 4 News spoke with the owner of a neighboring business called Phat Bottoms, who mentioned how much of an impact the business has had on her.
“I absolutely love Damion’s Rib Haven. Being in downtown East Moline and being so close to them there would be days when I would get out of my car to get here to the shop and I would smell the smoker going while they were working on food. And that would be sign that today I need to order some Damion’s, get some good ribs. It was just one of those fun and comfortable family-friendly environments. You could tell it was run by a family, that it was loved and cared for, and everyone truly wanted you to be there,” said Brianne Choitz.
As she and the family strive to hold it together, they spend lots of time with one another and ponder the memories they have of both Alexia and Elias.
“Lexi and Elias … they were so special to me and my aunt. They just they were very special people. If people knew them, they knew exactly how Alexia was, and Elias in the background, you always seen one with the other,” said Adrian.
Because of the loss of the previous owner, Damion Overton, and now Alexia, the family wonders what the next step is for the business.
“It’s just sad. It’s going to be difficult in the future to keep a legacy going,” Tammy said.
“Right now it’s unknown what’s going to happen with the restaurant,” said Adrian.
Franks faces multiple charges, including aggravated DUI/accident/death, and driving under the influence of alcohol. She was released on bond Monday.
Her preliminary hearing is set for Oct. 18 in Rock Island County Court.