Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

November 12, 2012

Altamont teen killed by train

Matt Saxton
Effingham Daily News

ALTAMONT —     Alex Daugherty had dreams of completing his GED and going into the military.

    “He kind of went back and forth between the Marines and the Army,” said Betsy Daugherty about her son the day after a train hit and killed him near his home. “That’s all he talked about.”

    Cain “Alex” Alexander Daugherty, 17, died around noon Saturday shortly after a freight train hit him on the CSX Railroad tracks near 450th Street. The former Altamont Community High School teenager, who used the tracks daily as a shortcut between his family’s home and a friend’s, had been walking on the tracks only a short distance when the train came by.

    “He loved hanging out with his friends,” said Betsy Daugherty, who works as a CNA and unit secretary at St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital in Effingham. “He was fun. He had a great sense of humor. He was constantly pulling pranks on people.”

    Born in Centralia, Alex Daugherty had left Altamont and moved in with his maternal grandmother, Charlene Crane, in Coffeyville, Kan. He had planned on finishing his GED there. But plans changed, and he decided to come back to Altamont to finish his equivalency here.

    “He never liked school,” said his mother. “He had all these plans to come home, finish his GED, going of into the military. And now ... .”

    Effingham County Coroner Leigh Hammer said Alex Daugherty was hit from behind as he walked along the tracks. The conductor and engineer said they sounded the train’s whistle several times, but he didmove off the tracks.

    His mother said he was listening to music and had earbuds in his ears at the time he was hit, and might not have heard the train. However, she said she never heard the whistle of the train, which would have been just a short distance from the family’s back yard.

    Either way, Hammer said the death is a reminder that people should not use the tracks as a walking path.

    “It’s not a sidewalk,” said Hammer, who also said the engineer and conductor were shaken by the event when Chief Deputy Coroner Tanya Overbeck arrived at the scene.

    “There was nothing they could do,” said Hammer. “They knew they were about to hit him. It’s got to be an absolutely horrible thing.”

    Overbeck said the conductor had this experience before. But it was the first time the engineer had been involved with a railroad fatality.

    “The conductor was also a much older man, and the engineer much younger,” Overbeck said.

    Hammer said the coroner’s office would perform an autopsy today that would include screenings for any drugs or alcohol that might have been in Alex Daugherty’s system when the train hit him. She also said the Effingham County Sheriff’s office planned to review CSX’s monitoring tapes to see if anything else could have been done to prevent the fatality.

    Hammer said it was at least the fifth time a train has hit someone in Effingham County since she became coroner about a decade ago. The last train/pedestrian fatality in Effingham County happened more than a year ago, according to Daily News records.

    Alex Daugherty leaves behind three half-siblings, two of whom live in Altamont: Zachary Beccue, 15, a sophomore at Altamont; and Kylee Brooks, 9, a fourth-grader at Altamont Grade School. He also has an older half-sister in Salem, where his father lives.

    Betsy Daugherty said Alex and his Salem family were not close.

    “He had some contact with his sister in the past four years, but not with his father,” said Betsy Daugherty. She said she moved here from Salem when Alex was still a toddler.

    “It probably did have an effect on his life, how he viewed his life,” she said of her son’s relationship with his father.

    Overbeck and Betsy Daugherty said they had spoken with school officials and that counselors would be available this week to speak with those who knew Alex. Ladies groups at Cornerstone Christian Church, where Betsy Daugherty now attends, and at Altamont Christian Church, where she and Alex had once attended, had discussed planning a meal following Alex’s funeral service.

    Gieseking Funeral Home in Altamont is handling the arrangements. The family will receive visitors from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, with a service at 2 p.m. Shannon Bopp, minister of Altamont Christian Church, will officiate. For a complete obituary, please see page A4 in today’s Daily News.

    Meanwhile, Betsy Daugherty asked that memorials be sent to the family, which is dealing with the death as best as they can.

    “There are so many memories,” Betsy Daugherty said. “I can’t think of one that stands out.”