Maple Park police open doors for those mourning teen's death
MAPLE PARK – Police in Maple Park expanded their drop-in program for youths, welcoming them in Wednesday and today, days after the death of 14-year-old Kaneland Harter Middle School student Parker Wolfsmith.
Wolfsmith died Saturday night, hit by a Union Pacific train at the crossing at Liberty and Main streets in Maple Park. The drop-in center will be open at 3 p.m. today at the police station, at 302 Willow St., Maple Park.
Police Chief Mike Acosta said officers will be there "for those individuals who are still trying to deal with this tragedy." Josh Salisbury, who helps coordinate the drop-in center, said several had showed up as of Wednesday. Salisbury called it a "community-wide tragedy." Salisbury said those interested in the drop-in program could call the police department at 815-827-3286, and select mailbox four, or send him email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two sets of funeral arrangements have been made. Wolfsmith moved into the Kaneland School District 302 boundaries before the beginning of his eighth-grade year, but he previously lived in McHenry.
In Kane County, a memorial visitation will be from 4 to 9 p.m., with a wake service to begin 7 p.m. Friday at Conley Funeral Home, 116 W. Pierce St., Elburn. The Rev. Tim Seigel, pastor of St. Gall Catholic Church, Elburn, will officiate. Private family burial will follow cremation at a later date. In lieu of flowers, a memorial has been established in his name. Checks may be made to the “Parker Wolfsmith Memorial” and mailed in care of P.O. Box 66, Elburn, 60119. Tributes may be forwarded to the same address or on the web at www.conleycare.com.
Also, funeral arrangements and visitation plans have been set in McHenry County. Visitation will take place from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday at Justen Funeral Home, 3700 W. Charles J. Miller Road, McHenry. The service will be at 8 p.m. Friday at the funeral home. For information, call the funeral home at 815-385-2400 or visit www.justenfh.com.
According to the obituary, Wolfsmith is survived by his father Michael (Ellen Crosby) Wolfsmith; his mother, Amy Opfer; one sister, Summer Wolfsmith; half-siblings, Michael Wolfsmith and Briana Culberson; paternal grandparents, Stephen and Jean Walrack; maternal grandmother, Mary Kennedy, and several aunts, uncles and many cousins.
He is preceded in death by a paternal grandfather, Joseph F. Wolfsmith.
Acosta said Wolfsmith had attended the police department's drop-in nights – which run from 6 to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays at the station. Salisbury said Wolfsmith was not at the drop-in center on the night of the train incident, but that he had attended the center at times.
"It seemed that he was a very well-rounded young man," Salisbury said.
Acosta said his understanding is that the incident took place because Wolfsmith "was trying to see how close he could get to the tracks." Acosta said that the police are planning to have railroad officials provide safety sessions on how to be safe around the tracks. Salisbury said he had been in contact with officials at Operation Lifesaver to come in for a presentation.
Acosta said he plans to view a video taken by Union Pacific as part of the investigation. Mark Davis, a spokesman for Union Pacific said most trains are equipped with recorders for many purposes, including pedestrian incidents, grade-crossing collisions and employee safety reviews. He said, typically, that those with the railroad police will show them to agencies, but Union Pacific does not turn the tapes over.
Davis said it's important to stress that people shouldn't be near the trains as they are passing through, but that train crews do see people in and around railroad property. He said that train crew members who have to witness such "horrific incidents" can be affected. He said trains that are on the move cannot stop in time to prevent such incidents. He said there is a counseling program available for crew members involved in such events.
"I cannot imagine the experience of one of the train crew members, and typically it's the conductor, who is having to go back and check on someone who has been struck," Davis said. "It has to be a very sinking feeling."
Davis said "our thoughts and prayers are also with the family and friends of this person who was struck."
A display of balloons and flowers now sits near the crossing, on the side of the road south of the tracks at the intersection of Liberty and Main streets in Maple Park.
Harter Middle School had a promotion ceremony Tuesday night for eighth-graders completing their school year. Kaneland Superintendent Jeff Schuler said there was an insert in the program for the event that addressed both Wolfsmith and Caityln Phillips, a Harter student in the same class who died last year while inline skating in Elburn. Schuler said both Wolfsmith and Phillips' parents were in attendance at the ceremony Tuesday.
Acosta said the Maple Park Village Board observed a moment of silence in Wolfsmith's honor before Tuesday night's meeting.