Grieving father takes his cause to the Web

By Wilson Brown
Staff writer
Published: 6/7/06 in Villa Park Argus/Lombard Spectator

New site dedicated to railroad safety, Kristen Bowen

Ray Zukowski spends up to 20 hours a day on his computer.

The 47-year-old Lombard resident doesn't do it to waste time, though.

"I'm not getting a lot of sleep right now," he said. "I'm planted and glued to it all day."

For the past two weeks, Zukowski has been setting up, maintaining and updating a Web site in memory of his daughter Kristen Bowen, 14, who was struck and killed by a freight train in February while she was crossing the tracks about a quarter mile from Addison Road in Villa Park.

When asked what he does for a living, Zukowski said, "Right now -- this."

Before the Web site, Zukowski used to manage a group of gas stations for Clark Retail.

"We're working on getting a nonprofit going," he said of the Web site at www.kristenslaw.org. "Right now, we're just going on the savings we have."

The Web site includes a biography on Kristen, railroad safety news and information on Kristen's Law, which calls for concrete walls or other barriers near area railroad tracks to keep people from constructing unlawful shortcuts.

"It was started by me," Zukowski said of the relatively new Web site that went up over the Memorial Day weekend. "We wanted to attract attention. ... Saving lives is the No. 1 purpose."

Zukowski especially wants to shed light on an area in Lombard where North Ahrens, North Chase and North Westmore all dead end at the Union Pacific Railroad tracks and the popular shortcuts that children and adults take over the tracks.

More events, educational seminars and fundraisers to raise awareness and money for potential barriers are to come, Zukowski said.

"We're really hoping the Web site kicks it off a bit," he said.

Last month, Kristen's classmates at Willowbrook High School held a car wash in Villa Park with the proceeds going to purchase thorny shrubs and fences to keep children off of the tracks.

"There are no protective barriers on the Lombard side of the tracks," Zukowski writes on the site. "On the Villa Park side there is a broken down partial fence that, if repaired, would separate children playing in the park from the high speed train traffic and would deter potential Lombard crossers but 100-plus feet of fencing is missing."

According to Zukowski, "No Trespassing" signs haven't been posted near the tracks either.

"The railroad has the money and we would like to see them spend more of it," he said. "Besides education, we wish they'd put up barriers to keep people out of these deathtraps."

Wilson Brown's e-mail address is:
wbrown@libertysuburban.com

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