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updated: 6/26/2014 8:20 PM

Maple Park plans train safety program in wake of boy's death

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  • Parker Wolfsmith

    Parker Wolfsmith


Trying to feel the rush of air from standing close to a passing freight train caused the death of 14-year-old Parker Wolfsmith in Maple Park May 31, authorities said.

To avoid having to investigate such a tragedy again, Maple Park and Union Pacific Railroad authorities plan to educate the public, particularly children, about the perils of trains.

They will conduct a workshop at 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 9, at the Maple Park Community Center, 302 Willow St., Maple Park Police Chief Mike Acosta said.

"It's very sad this had to happen in this community," Acosta said.

The investigation determined there was no foul play involved in Wolfsmith's death, Acosta said. Last week, he viewed a video recording of the accident. Nobody pushed Wolfsmith, and he didn't walk in front of the train. He was "breezing," Acosta said.

The video was recorded by a camera mounted on the front of the freight train. Acosta watched it with Union Pacific Railroad police and a representative of the Kane County coroner's office.

He said it showed Wolfsmith looking at the approaching train from about 30 feet away. Wolfsmith then ran to the side of the railroad tracks, looked again at the oncoming train, moved closer to the tracks and leaned forward.

Wolfsmith was struck by the pilot bumper -- also called a cowcatcher -- on the train, which wraps around the front of the engine and sticks out on the side. Acosta said he thinks Wolfsmith didn't see the protruding cowcatcher, which is designed to deflect objects. The westbound train had three locomotives and was pulling 135 empty coal cars.

Police found Wolfsmith's cellphone about 20 feet away. The video didn't show whether he had his cellphone in his hand, due to nighttime darkness. Acosta said data couldn't be recovered from the cellphone because it was wet and damaged.

Acosta said he is still waiting the results of Wolfsmith's toxicology tests, which would determine if he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Before the accident, Wolfsmith had been at a house two doors down from the railroad tracks, hanging out with friends. Acosta said the friends -- a boy and a girl -- told police that Wolfsmith heard the train's whistle and yelled, "Train! Train! I'm going to go get this one because I missed the last one." Acosta said the friends tried to stop him, and that they witnessed the accident.

Wolfsmith had also told school classmates about his practice of standing close to trains, Acosta said. Wolfsmith, who lived in Maple Park, was in eighth grade at Kaneland Harter Middle School.

"I think it (the accident) woke some kids up," Acosta said.

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