MAPLE PARK—Harter Middle School student Parker Wolfsmith was struck and killed by a Union Pacific freight train in Maple Park on Saturday night. Wolfsmith lived in an unincorporated area of Kane County outside of Maple Park.
The 14-year-old Wolfsmith, who was in the eighth grade, would have participated in a “promotion” ceremony on Tuesday, marking his move from middle school to high school.
According to Maple Park Police Chief Mike Acosta, Wolfsmith was on the east side of the railroad crossing at Liberty Street, and had gotten too close to the train when he was struck at 9:30 p.m. According to Union Pacific spokesman Mark Davis, the west-bound train traveling from Joliet, Ill., to Wyoming consisted of 135 empty coal cars.
A few of Wolfsmith’s friends were at the scene when Acosta arrived. He was pronounced deceased at 10:01 p.m., according to the Kane County Coroner’s office.
Acosta said the Maple Park Police Department is in the process of trying to piece together what happened. He said it has not yet determined if a game in which a person stands as close to a train as possible when it comes by was involved in the incident.
“They like to feel the power of the train and the wind rushing by,” he said.
Acosta said it’s a very dangerous game. When the young person gets too close to the train, the wind from the train can pull them under it.
Acosta is not sure whether or not this was the case on Saturday night. He said they have ruled out suicide and there is no evidence of foul play.
According to Acosta, it could take a week for the Union Pacific to make available to the Police Department video footage that will show what took place at the front of the train that night.
Acosta said that Wolfsmith had moved to the Maple Park area last August to live with his father. The police chief said residents have told him that Wolfsmith and his friends were at the Saturday night Drop-in Center at the Maple Park Community Center earlier in the evening, but he has not yet been able to confirm this.
In a release issued from the Kaneland School District on Sunday, Superintendent Jeff Schuler said district staff wanted to “extend our deepest condolences and sympathy to Parker’s family and friends,” and asked that the community “keep Parker’s family and friends in your thoughts and prayers.”
The School District on Monday provided students the opportunity to meet with counselors at Kaneland Harter Middle School. Schuler said that teachers who had worked with Wolfsmith on a daily basis described him as a “fun-loving, bright kid,” a “great friend” and “someone who could always make you laugh with his witty sense of humor.”
Acosta was also at the school on Monday to talk to the students in Wolfsmith’s class about the incident.
According to Acosta, some of the students were having a difficult time with what had happened. This is the same class that, as seventh-graders last year, experienced the sudden death of another classmate, Caitlyn Phillips, who was hit by a car when she rollerbladed into the street.
Schuler said the eighth-grade promotion ceremony and the dance following was held as scheduled.
Acosta said the students with whom Wolfsmith typically ate lunch left an empty chair at their table on Monday.
Acosta said he went to sit in the chair and the students said, “No, no, that’s Parker’s.”