Sandwich man killed by train

by Dana Herra

A 42-year-old man was killed the night of Aug. 5 when he was struck by a train near Latham Street in Sandwich. Timothy A. Paradis of Sandwich was sitting between the rails of the north track east of the Latham Street crossing about 10:30 p.m. when he was struck by an eastbound coal train, Sandwich Police Chief Rick Olson said.

The train was stopped, and officials with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad notified Sandwich police, according to a written statement from police. Paradis' body was found about 350 feet east of the crossing, police said. He was pronounced dead just before midnight.

The incident is the second train fatality in DeKalb County in less than a week and the third in the county since Jan. 1.

David E. Molitor, 24, of DeKalb was struck Saturday by a westbound Union Pacific Railroad train about 1:20 a.m. while walking west along the south side of the railroad tracks in the 1400 block of West Lincoln Highway. His death remains under investigation by the county coroner's office and the DeKalb Police Department.

Attempts to contact Molitor's family have been unsuccessful.

The incident incident is being investigated by Sandwich police and the DeKalb County Coroner's Office, and toxicology reports are pending, Olson said. Police are also trying to determine where Paradis was in the hours before he died.

BNSF spokesman Joe Faust confirmed the next day that a man was struck by a train and killed in Sandwich, but he said he had no further information.

Paradis' death marks the 10th train fatality in DeKalb County in the past two years, according to Operation Lifesaver, a nonprofit group dedicated to public awareness of railroad safety. Eight of the fatalities involved people on foot.

DeKalb County has 108 of the 8,368 public railroad crossings in Illinois, according to Operation Lifesaver, and is among the top 20 most dangerous counties in the state for train collisions.

One of the problems is that people walk on the tracks at places other than crossings, Operation Lifesaver Illinois representative Chip Pew said. Being on the tracks at any other place besides a grade crossing or crosswalks at commuter rail stations is trespassing and is punishable by a $150 fine, Pew said.

“Anyone losing their life is a tragedy, whether it's a pedestrian or a trespasser,” Pew said. “But when people engage in that type of stuff, they run the risk of something bad happening, like being hit by a train. ... The question is, how do we resolve the trespassing problem in DeKalb County?”

It would be difficult to put up and maintain fences along the more than 7,000 miles of railroad property in Illinois, Pew said, but local and railroad officials throughout the state are looking at ways to reduce the number of train fatalities.

In the city of DeKalb, education campaigns and stepped-up enforcement of trespassing laws are under way, and the use of physical barriers are is being investigated, Acting Fire Chief Bruce Harrison said.

Even if an engineer sees someone on the tracks, it can take a fully loaded train up to a mile to stop, according to Operation Lifesaver.

“It really starts with just paying attention. If you're not in the train's way, under no circumstances is something bad going to happen to you,” Pew said.

Daily Chronicle reporter Benji Feldheim contributed to this report.

                                                                                                           Valley Free Press