VERMILION — Police say the death of a Vermilion teenager occurred because he and a group of teenagers decided to try to race across a set of railroad tracks as a train was bearing down.
Police Lt. Rich Labis said Christopher Campbell, 17, of Vermilion, and another boy both decided to try the risky maneuver, but the second boy stumbled and fell — never making it into the path of the train. Campbell was hit by the westbound train as he turned to see about his friend, Labis said.
Labis said the incident happened Monday night after a police officer told a group of teenagers hanging out at Main Street Beach to start heading home about 11 p.m. Campbell and three others began walking toward one teen’s home, which was just south of the double set of train tracks near Perry and Washington streets, he said.
The boys told police they all heard the approaching train, but only two decided to take off running, thinking they could get across the tracks, Labis said.
After Campbell was struck, his friends ran to the nearby Vermilion police station for help, but Campbell was dead at the scene, Labis said.
In a city where many trains travel through each day, it was an accident that could have been avoided, he said.
“Sometimes it’s hard to judge speed and distance to gauge how fast a train is going. That’s why it’s important to always cross where there are lights and gates, even if you are on foot,” Labis said.
Monday’s accident did not happen at a designated railroad crossing — there were no lights or warning bars, Labis said. The nearest crossing was a block away on Perry Street.
In the United States, there are about 218,000 miles of railroad track, according to the Association of American Railroads. All tracks, trestles, yards and equipment are private property, which means it’s illegal to walk on or near them.
Not that any of that can do anything to ease the pain of the Campbell family, which is grieving the loss of their son.
Campbell, an avid bowler and member of the Vermilion High bowling team, enjoyed living in Vermilion — hanging out at the beaches and the Vermilion skate board park.
He went there often with a newly purchased BMX bicycle, his mother said.
“He always loved sports and being with his friends,” Vicki Campbell said of her son. “He was my pride and joy.”
An account has been set up at the CommStar Credit Union on West Erie Street. Donations can be made to the Christopher Campbell Memorial Fund with proceeds going toward funeral expenses.
Calling hours will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday at Riddle Funeral Home, Vermilion. The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Lakeside Baptist Church.
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.