Mattoon, IL Auto Crushed By Train, May 1959



Mattoon, May 16 (AP) - A carload of eight young people leaving a high school dance collided with a speeding train early today. Seven died and one was critically injured.
Hours after the Illinois Central's Chicago-to-New Orleans "Louisiane" passenger train ripped open the car, some of the victims were still unidentified.
All but one of the youths were from Shelbyville.
Unrecognizable bodies were identified by initials on class rings. Friends of the victims said they were en-route from the Shelbyville High School prom to a post-dance party.
Many parents, who in the early hours frantically tried to locate their still partying children after learning of the accident, said quiet prayers of thanks when theirs returned home safely.
Six were killed outright. They were:
her brother LYLE PFEIFFER, 18;
and JERRY HILL, 18, all of Shelbyville;
and JERRY HAYES, 19, of Woodlawn.
DOROTHY THOMAS, 18, of Shelbyville, died of injuries in a Mattoon hospital a few hours after the crash. The sole survivor was ALVIN IVAN MOON, 22, brother of IRENE.
MOON and HAYES were University of Illinois students.
An Illinois Central spokesman said the passenger train normally sped 70 to 75 m.p.h. through the Mattoon area.
Parents of other children who attended the prom were alarmed by inquiries made as authorities attempted to identify the dead. Some received inquiries about the crash before their children had returned home.
"We just couldn't tell who they were," said Principal C. R. Segley of the Shelbyville High School. "I didn't know what to do. We began calling parents and asking 'are your children at home?"
Victims were thrown as far as 150 feet when the train struck the car at the dirt road crossing.
Wreckage was strewn for a quarter of a mile.
Authorities said the railroad crossing had no signal lights or automatic signs.
Fegley said there was no evidence any of the youths had been drinking.
Coles County deputy sheriffs said they were unable to determine if MOON, driver of the car was racing the train to the crossing or was unable to see it bearing down on them.
He recovered consciousness late Saturday afternoon. Authorities did not plan to question him about the crash until his condition improves.
The full extent of MOON'S injuries had not been determined. However, a skull fracture apparently was the most serious injury.
Deputy Coroner J. E. Caudill of Coles County said he hoped to have a statement Sunday from the train's engineer, William Wood, Champaign. Caudill said no date has been set for the inquest.
The dark side road where the crash occurred, two miles north of Mattoon, was a popular shortcut for drivers in six counties in the vicinity.

Southern Illinoisan Carbondale Illinois 1959-05-17