Student struck by train; death ruled accident

By Greg Rivard

An inquest into the death of an NIU student involved in a train/pedestrian accident during December finals week was completed and ruled accidental Thursday.

The four man, two woman jury deliberated only five minutes before reaching their decision concerning the death of Paul Avon, 21. The official cause of death was rule as massive head injury cause by blunt trauma. The jury did not recommend any further investigation into the accident.

Avon was returning home to his Colonial Townhouse Apartment and was struck and killed by an eastbound Chicago and Northwestern train behind the Junction Eating Place, 816 W. Lincoln Hwy., on Dec. 17.

Deputy Frank Beierlotzer of the DeKalb County Sheriffs Department said Avon was returning from McCabes Lounge, 323 E. Lincoln Hwy., immediately prior to the accident. Avon’s blood alcohol count was .17. A person is legally intoxicated when the count reaches .10.

Although three hours elapsed between the time of the accident and the blood test, DeKalb County Coroner Dennis Miller said the results would not have changed drastically. Evidence of drug use was not found during the blood tests, he said.

Beierlotzer testified that, according to his roomates, Avon had been drinking since 6 p.m. and was described as being “very drunk.”

Beierlotzer read a statement by the train’s engineer, Steve Martin, that described Avon running toward the train and then throwing himself to the ground. The train was in the process of slowing down to meet the city-limit speed requirement. Martin sounded the horn twice after spotting Avon on the tracks, he said. The train stopped after the impact, and police were notified.

Miller said the evidence shows that Avon attempted to lie down on the tracks in the hopes the train would pass over him. Impressions on Avon’s leg from the articles in his pockets attest to Avon “forcing” himself to be as low to the ground as possible, he said. His arms were outstretched at the time of the impact, further indicating Avon’s attempt to lie underneath the train, Miller said.

Beierlotzer told the jury that upon talking to Avon’s roommates, Avon declined a ride home from McCabes Lounge because he was involved in a conversation with a female.