Railroad News

Illinois Teen Crossing Railroad Tracks at Commonly Used Pathway, Killed by Norfolk Southern Train

(Tilton, Illinois – March 17, 2015)

One of three teenagers, on their way to participate in a pick-up basketball game, was killed Tuesday afternoon between 5:30 and 6:00 P.M., CDT when he attempted to cross Norfolk Southern railroad tracks at a commonly-used pathway, tripped on a rail head, fell, and was hit as he tried to get up.

Shawn Morris, 15, a student in the Danville, IL school system, and his two friends, Bradford Meyer, 15, and Christian Gritton, 16, were going to Meyer’s house to get a basketball when they stopped at the double-track railroad corridor and waited for an eastbound NS train to pass. Morris then attempted to cross as a westbound freight approached and his friends resisted the urge to cross at what Tilton Chief of Police Steve Cornett calls “a big shortcut.”

Chief Cornett told Champaign News-Gazette news writers Noelle McGee and Tracy Moss that for years, kids have been crossing the double set of tracks at that spot – so much that there’s a worn path through a wooded area leading up to the rail bed, and that Shawn lived right across from the path. Cornett added that Shawn “was being a typical 15-year-old,” and that “It’s just a tragedy that happened.” The Chief had known the victim and his family for years.

Shawn had attended Southwest Elementary School in his grade school years, and Danville schools Special Education Director John Hart, who had been Shawn’s principal there, took the news hard after hearing of the tragedy during parent-teacher conferences Tuesday evening. “We are heartbroken,” Hart told the News-Gazette reporters. “Shawn was a neighborhood kid. Everyone knew and liked him.”