(Mokena, Illinois – May 22, 2019)
A group of four high school boys on an open-deck, double track rail bridge were surprised by a high-speed but very quiet Rock Island District Metra commuter train #419, bound from Chicago to Joliet with 23 passengers on board. Two of the group were believed dead after being struck by the train, while the other two escaped physical harm in the Wednesday evening, 7:00 PM, CDT tragedy.
Owned by Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Rail Corporation, the bridge carries a double track main line over Hickory Creek in Will County. On an average day, 68 NEICR commuter trains and freight trains of two other carriers roll through the suburban corridor at maximum allowable speeds as high as 79 mph.
All four boys were said to be students at Lincoln-Way Central High School in Mokena.
Killed were Jacob A. Manka, 17, of Mokena, and a 15-year-old companion for whose body authorities were searching for until inclement weather temporarily stopped the recovery operation Friday.
The body of the second victim, Charles Cooper, 15, of New Lenox was recovered from the creek Saturday, miles downstream from the site of the tragedy.
While being referred to as “trespassers”, the victims evidently had no impediment to accessing the NEICR property and railroad tracks across the bridge. Importantly, there were no barriers, such as safety fencing, to prevent these teens from entering onto the railroad bridge. Studies have demonstrated that safety fencing is select locations where pedestrians are known to be can dramatically reduce pedestrian incidents and needless death.