by Susan O’Neill
Kaneland High School senior Andie Christoffel was to graduate on Sunday, his whole life ahead of him. Instead, the 18-year-old passed away on Monday afternoon in a hospital in Rockford, the result of injuries caused when a train hit him on Saturday night.
An employee of the Union Pacific Railroad called 911 at about 10:45 p.m. on Saturday to report the sighting of a figure on the tracks west of Somonauk Road in Cortland. When the Cortland police arrived at the scene, they found Christoffel, who was badly injured.
He was taken to Kishwaukee Hospital by the DeKalb City Fire Department, and then airlifted to a Rockford hospital, where he died on Monday.
Cortland police are working with the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office and Union Pacific Railroad police to investigate the incident.
â€œIt’s a very, very unfortunate tragic incident,â€ Cortland Police Chief Russ Stokes said.
Kaneland School District Superintendent Charlie McCormick said a representative of the family informed the school of Christoffel’s condition on Sunday morning. A school official spoke to a member of his family on Monday.
Although the graduating seniors are officially finished with school, the school administration has invited them back to talk with other students, teachers and counselors as they feel the need. McCormick said that Christoffel also had a good mix of friends in the upper classes, as well as in his own class.
A staff person from Conley Outreach has been available at the school.
â€œWe are most pleased to have a resource like that in the community,â€ McCormick said. â€œI’m saddened we use it as often as we do.â€
In another Kaneland tragedy, high school seniors Blake Denton and Jeff Malewig, both from Sugar Grove, died in a car crash in December 2008 while on their way to the high school.
Kaneland High School Assistant Principal Diane McFarland remembered Christoffel on Wednesday.
â€œAndie was artistic, creative, compassionate and smart,â€ she said.
After the Northern Illinois University tragedy last year, McFarland said Christoffel was one of the students who spearheaded putting together a memorial poster for the students.
â€œHe was incredibly compassionate and had an amazing gentle spirit,â€ McFarland said. â€œHis incredible sense of humor and style will be missed.â€
Andie attended the Fox Valley Career Center, where he took graphic arts and high-level computer classes.
Nikki Larsen, the Graphics Communications teacher, was one of his teachers at the career center.
She has been working with the students this week to create a T-shirt and a memorial poster for him.
â€œShe has been a haven for a lot of his friends,â€ McFarland said.