(Chicago, Illinois – March 7, 2014)
A 17-year old Chicago Taft High School junior, walking to school with a younger relative, was struck, and eventually died from his injuries, by a Chicago Metra commuter passenger train at the crossing of Bryn Mawr and Union Pacific Railroad tracks in the Old Norwood Park neighborhood on Chicago’s northwest side last Friday morning at about 6:50 A.M.
Chicago Police said that Erik Lucansky may not have heard the train due to his wearing of ear buds. But the young man was walking with a girl, identified only as his niece, and the Chicago Tribune reported that “It was not clear how fast the train that struck Lucansky was going or whether operators blew the horn.”
The Tribune, in a story by Reporter Mitch Smith, noted that “The railroad crossing, about three blocks from Taft, is a popular route to the school, and includes gates for both pedestrians and vehicles.”
Lucansky, who was pronounced dead at 7:27 A.M. after being taken to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, was a former member of the Taft High School cheerleading team. “It’s been a very difficult day, as you can imagine,” said Lucansky’s coach, Brett Nishibayashi. “He was a well-known kid throughout the school, and vibrant. He’d been a committed cheerleader,” he told The Chicago Sun-Times.
As the administration at Taft provided grief counsellors for students and teachers at the school, a statement was issued which read, in part, that “It is with heavy hearts that we must inform the Taft community of the passing of one of our students. Eric Lucansky was tragically struck by a train and killed while crossing the tracks at Bryn Mawr and Avondale on his way to school.”
Friend and fellow student Stefanie Bates, 17, said that “Teachers were crying. A lot of people were crying.” Meanwhile, another friend, sophomore Yulissa Renteria, could barely speak of the tragedy Friday night, her eyes welling up with tears as her parents cried with her. “She and Erik were part of a group of four kids that hung out together all the time,” Yulissa’s father, Carlos Renteria, explained to Sun-Times reporters. “Erik was a good kid. We saw him every day, just a nice kid, never in trouble. Yulissa is really struggling.”
The intersection where the tragedy occurred has three main railroad tracks which carry as many as 68 Metra passenger and Union Pacific freight trains through the area daily at a top allowable speed of 70 mph.
Max Jaurigue, who has lived since 1994 in a house that overlooks the crossing, commented to The Tribune that “This is a dangerous area,” and that he noted even auto traffic often failed to stop for students crossing the intersection. “It’s not exactly the safest place,” he continued. “I used to tell my wife ‘They need to have a crossing guard over here.’”