The families of 3 men killed in the explosion of Starved Rock file a complaint | Crime-and-Courts
The families of three men who were killed in an explosion near Starved Rock State Park in May filed a lawsuit Wednesday afternoon against several construction and blasting companies who the complaint said left behind a rod unexploded explosive that the men accidentally ignited.
Illinois law firm Salvi, Schostok and Pritchard has filed three wrongful death lawsuits on behalf of the families in Cook County Circuit Court against construction companies that were hired by the Department of Transportation to l ‘Illinois to demolish an old bridge near the park on March 18.
On May 6, brothers Immer Rivera Tejada, 39, Rafael Rivera Tejada, 36, and their nephew Guillermo Rivera Tejada, 26, went to the park to fish along the Illinois River, according to the complaint, which, according to attorney Patrick Salvi, was filed after Illinois State Police and the FBI investigated the explosion. They were about 100 yards from where the bridge demolition took place, about 75 miles southwest of Chicago.
The men, all from Little Village, made a campfire to cook the fish they caught on the south side of the river, according to the complaint. To make the campfire, they used what appeared to be a foot-long copper pipe that they found to support their cast iron pan.
One of the men made a video call around 7 p.m. to show his catch before setting the fish on the fire, and in this video the rod is shown, according to the complaint. Unbeknownst to the men, the rod was an explosive that did not detonate during the demolition of the bridge, according to the complaint.
Salvi said he believed the rod ended up near the men after drifting into the river.
At around 7:15 p.m., according to the complaint, the heat from the campfire detonated the rod, killing all three men. The complaint said the clothing of at least one of the victims and the ground at the site contained evidence of an explosive compound that was used by construction and blasting companies.
“We always knew that Immer, Rafael and Guillermo were innocent victims, and we knew the investigation would reveal it – which she did,” according to a written statement from Maluc Cordoba-Arce, wife of Immer. “These men were our brothers, our fathers and our husbands. These men were the three pillars of our family. Our children will now grow up without their dads, without their love or support. We live in Chicago, 3 different houses, on the same block, all together. We are a very close family and words cannot fully describe the depth of pain we feel from losing so many family members all at once.
Eleven days after the bridge exploded, another explosive device that had not originally detonated was found by the blasting companies, but the companies did not report the find, according to the complaint.
The complaint claims that the companies failed to conduct a proper post-explosion inspection, which is why the explosive device could be found by unaware people.
Initially, officials said little about the explosion, beyond the fact that it was an “isolated” event and that the men ignited a black powder substance which exploded, causing their deaths.
“The family knew there was no way. They are good men. They are not kidding. They respect the law, ”Salvi said. “So they knew it wasn’t true, and it was a little upsetting that they jumped to that conclusion without any evidence.”
The three men left a wife and two relatives and seven minor children between the ages of 3 and 15, according to the law firm.
Cordoba-Arce said their families are now “united by immense and unnecessary loss”.
“There are still days when I wake up and for a moment I forget that my husband is dead. Every day, all children are reminded that their fathers never come home, ”she said. “I am here to seek the justice and responsibility our family deserves, and most importantly, to prevent another family from going through what my family goes through every day.”
A person who answered the phone for D Construction, one of the defendants in the lawsuit, on Thursday afternoon said the company had no comment on the lawsuit. A spokeswoman for Orica, another company named in the lawsuit, wrote in an email that the company “would not be able to comment on pending or ongoing legal proceedings.”
Gillan Construction, a third company named in the lawsuit, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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