The Register-Mail

Posted Jul 10, 2010 @ 08:00 AM

Last update Jul 10, 2010 @ 09:49 AM

The family and friends of Kyle Myers and Mason Behymer weren’t looking for answers Friday morning.

Not now. Not in the aftermath of what is still unthinkable. Not while grief shadows everything they know.

Kyle and Mason died Thursday after they were hit by a BNSF freight train at about 8:20 a.m. The accident occurred on Knox County Road 940N, about 2 miles north of Abingdon, roughly 1 miles south of Knox County Highway 26 (Lake Bracken Road) and one mile east of Illinois 41.

The engineer and conductor of the train — which consisted of five locomotives and 86 cars carrying general merchandise from Tulsa to Galesburg — said “both individuals were observed moments before lying between the railroad tracks.”

Kyle was 16 years old. Mason was 17. They were enjoying the summer vacation before their senior year at Abingdon High School. Both were slated to be starters on the football team.

Six of the boys’ friends who shared their grief Friday said Kyle and Mason had been friends for a long time. And they became closer in the aftermath of other tragedies.

Kyle’s father — Keith Myers — died Dec. 4, 2006, in a train accident while working for Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. Mason never got a chance to meet his father. Steve Robinson was killed on an oil rig in Wyoming about a year later.

“I think having that in common brought them even closer together,” said 15-year-old Amanda Smith, Mason’s sister. “They were close before, but I think that kind of brought them together.”

Amanda Smith was joined Friday morning by 20-year-old Kristin Smith, 17-year-olds Caleb Sherman and Jordan Judy, 26-year-old John Gerstel, and Mason’s 16-year-old cousin, Jared Smith. The group had drifted to Main Street, the site of a candle-light vigil Thursday night that drew over 60 people.

“There have been a lot of rumors,” Jared Smith said. “One of them is some kind of suicide. That’s just not true. Not true at all. I got a text message from Mason at 7 that morning.

“The text said he had something to talk to me about. He said it was important, but he didn’t say what it was.”

The boys’ five other friends scoffed at the notion of suicide and said they were angered by what they said were television stories that portrayed Kyle and Mason as small-town kids who “ran the streets” and came from a youth culture that regularly dodged trains.

“Kyle and I talked quite a bit about going into the Marine Corps after high school,” Caleb Sherman said. “We talked about life and death. Those things were as real as they could be to us. There was no way they would just commit suicide.”

Jared Smith said he and Mason talked about the Air Force.

“Both of those guys had plans,” Jared Smith said. “They both were the kind of guys who stood out. People were drawn to both of those guys.”

The six friends shared tears as they remembered friends. Kristin Robinson held Amanda Smith close as the latter sobbed, searching her memories of the duo.

“Mason and Kyle both liked music,” Amanda Smith said.

“Mason like classic rock and rap and techno,” Caleb Sherman said. “Kyle was more of a classic rock kind of a guy.”

“Pink Floyd, The Beatles,” Jordan Judy offered.

“And The Doors,” Caleb Sherman said. “Kyle loved The Doors.”

Smiles mixed with tears. Amanda Smith stood up and said the best friends always did a dance called the “Truffle Shuffle.” She demonstrated it for the group, which brought laughter. The shared moment was soon replaced by a quiet interrupted by sniffles.

On the other side of town, Mindy Myers and her son Connor were inside a nearly silent home on West Meek Street. They came out on the porch to talk about Kyle.

“Kyle was my middle son,” Mindy Myers said. “Devon, his sister, is 19. Connor is 12.”

The mother and her surviving son spoke softly to one another. The boy stayed close to his mother. They were supposed to go to Galesburg and pick up Kyle’s senior pictures.

“Kyle and Mason were tight since seventh or eighth grade,” Mindy Myers said. “And they were part of a big group of boys. Kyle and Mason had a lot going for them.”

Mindy Myers held Connor close and asked if he was OK.

“My grief is not even describable,” she said. “I’m broke. That’s what I am.

“I just don’t understand.”

No one knows why Kyle and Mason were lying in the tracks. And the answer to the question of why was minor in the face of what was lost.


Kyle W. Myers, 16, right, and Mason R. Behymer, 17, both of Abingdon, were hit and killed by a BNSF freight train Thursday about 1 mile south of Knox County Highway 26 (Lake Bracken Road) and one mile east of Illinois 41.

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