NIU freshman dies in train accident

By Bill Schwingel

An NIU freshman was killed by an east-bound train Thursday night.

Jay W. Mears, 22, 272 Lincoln Hall, was found Friday morning near the Chicago & Northwestern train tracks behind Days Inn, 1212 W. Lincoln Hwy., according to the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office.

Mears’ body was discovered by a C&NW train crew at about 7:45 a.m. Friday and Mears was pronounced dead an hour later, said a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office.

DeKalb County Coroner Dennis Miller said Mears was hit by the train sometime Thursday night and that “no foul play is suspected.”

Although there was no sign of alcohol or drugs at the scene of the accident, test results for these substances will be available by Feb. 9, Miller said.

The cause of death will be decided by a coroner’s jury two or three weeks after Miller conducts an official examination, he said.

“He was a good guy. That really sums him up,” said Mears’ roommate Paul Hoecker, a first semester junior majoring in psychology.

Hoecker said, “I got along with him from the start.” Mears was “friendly and outgoing in his own way toward me,” he said.

Hoecker said he last saw Mears on Thursday, but was unsure of the time.

The county police will be handling the investigation because the accident occurred on county property.

Mears began at NIU in January as an undecided Liberal Arts and Sciences major. He lived in South Beloit, Ill. with his mother Judith A. Pratt and stepfather Gene Pratt.

Funeral arrangements are pending in South Beloit.