CHICAGO (CBS) — At least one teenager was killed by a Metra Rock Island train Wednesday night, and authorities have now suspended the search for a second teen who is missing and presumed dead in Joliet. Authorities said the search was being suspended due to incoming bad weather.
“We’re looking at it as a recovery,” said East Joliet Fire Protection District Chief Robert Scholtes.
Metra police said three teenagers were trespassing and walking west along the Rock Island tracks on a bridge near Lincoln Highway and Highland Drive when a train came through behind them. Officials originally said there were four teens walking on the tracks, but clarified Thursday afternoon that there were three teens walking to meet a fourth.
Officials said there were two confirmed fatalities, but only one boy’s body has been found. The other teen who was on the tracks was not injured.
One of the victims has been identified as 17-year-old Jacob A. Manka of Mokena, a student at Lincoln-Way Central High School.
Metra said an engineer on the train saw the three teens on the tracks as the train was approaching. All three started to run, but the train hit two of them.
“It’s not like this point has been a known trouble spot. Chicago has a lot of railroads, and so there are occasional incidents where kids are hanging out on the tracks. It’s not frequent. It’s not something that happens a lot,” Metra spokesman Michael Gillis said. “This was a very traumatic experience for the engineer and the crew.”
The westbound train had just left New Lenox and had one more stop in Joliet. There were 23 people on board.
“Most of our system does not have fences,” Gillis said. “It’s just not practical to fence the entire right of way. We don’t know how these teens got on the tracks to begin with anyway.”
Emergency crews spent several hours searching for the missing victim Wednesday night before suspending their search. They returned Thursday morning, and were focusing on Hickory Creek under the tracks.
“The creek runs swiftly with all the rain that we’ve had, so it’s a tough situation because the creek is shall in some areas,” Scholtes said. “It’s very deep in others.”
The creek is flowing rapidly because of all the rain the area has seen in recent weeks, creating dangerous conditions. Firefighters searched the woods, launched a drone and used cadaver dogs to find the missing person but came up empty handed.
Metra has not confirmed the ages of the two teens struck by the train.
Rock Island trains were halted in Joliet for several hours after the accident Wednesday night, but normal service resumed Thursday morning.