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Investigation continues into train death

Authorities turn to video, black box and toxicology findings

Flowers, pictures, candles and other memorabilia of Abe Black were set up along the tracks, east of the former train depot that now houses the Grundy County Chamber of Commerce.
Flowers, pictures, candles and other memorabilia of Abe Black were set up along the tracks, east of the former train depot that now houses the Grundy County Chamber of Commerce.

Authorities are still investigating what occurred late Friday night that led to the death of Abe J. Black, who was hit by a train near the Liberty Street crossing in downtown Morris.

Black, 22, of Morris, was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after midnight Saturday morning. Through the use of Morris police's LivScan fingerprinting system, Grundy County Coroner John Callahan was able to identify Black by mid-morning Saturday and his family was notified Saturday afternoon.

"At the present time, we are waiting for railroad personnel to gather and download video camera footage," Callahan said.

The train had a camera mounted that records what is in front of the train, he said, and the train also has a system similar to a plane's black box that records the train's speed and other information.

Once the information is downloaded, Callahan said he will go into Chicago this week to view the recording.

"It will help me determine the manner (of death)," he said.

Callahan will also have to wait for toxicology reports, which will take 10 to 14 days to process.

Chief Brent Dite said detectives are trying to track down a possible witness, but what he or she may have seen is unknown.


Morris police and the coroner's office are investigating the accident and were on scene Saturday morning. The incident occurred about 200 feet east of the Liberty Street crossing.

Callahan said the victim was identified through Morris police's new fingerprinting system — LivScan. LivScan is an inkless computerized system that takes digitized images of fingerprints and also saves the demographic data in a digital format.

Fingerprints are taken for all felony, misdemeanor and warrant arrests, along with some offenses in the Illinois Vehicle Code. Through the system, authorities can access a person's identification and their criminal history, if they have been fingerprinted before. The system also gives access to the state's records, in case fingerprints are on record for a job or other reason.

If the system was not available for identification, the coroner would have had to use dental records or DNA, Callahan said. These methods would be more time-consuming and more expensive, and the dental method would require dental records with which to compare.

After the media released reports of the incident, authorities received some calls based on the description that was released. A Morris officer also recognized the description, and he believed it was Black, whom the officer had seen in those clothes the day before, Callahan said.

Based on this, Callahan said he could have approached the family to confirm the possible identity, and then try to get dental records or materials for a DNA test. But then you are worrying a family without knowing the deceased is their loved one, Callahan said.

The LivScan system would have been used regardless of having a possible identification or not in hopes of finding an ID without having to worry a family before knowing the facts, he said.

"It was the quickest way," Callahan said.

Black had no identification with him, so prior to accessing the fingerprints, authorities were asking for the public's assistance. The victim was described as male, white, dark hair, weighing about 195 pounds and wearing black nylon sweat pants, Morris Redskin T-shirt, a gray sweatshirt and tennis shoes.

A memorial of flowers, pictures, candles and other memorabilia of Black was set up along the tracks, east of the former train depot that now houses the Grundy County Chamber of Commerce.

The family will receive friends from 4 p.m. Wednesday, March 28, until the time of memorial services at 7 p.m. at U. C. Davis & Sons Funeral Home, 301 W. Washington St. in Morris. 

Obituary: Abraham J. Black
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