Questions raised about dance teacher's death

April 19, 2010 6:24:24 AM PDT
Questions surfaced Sunday about a train crash in the south suburbs that left a 26-year-old Chicago woman dead.Katie Lunn was returning home from a dance awards contest when an Amtrak train struck her car.

Her friends and dance colleagues have been devastated by her sudden death.

It wasn't easy to get back on stage Sunday after the tragic loss of one of their own, but members of Chicago's "Hip Hop Connxion" dance troupe told ABC7 Chicago Katie Lunn wouldn't have had it any other way.

"If it would've happened to anyone else, she would have been the person that said, 'No, we're doing it. We're doing it, and we're going to honor this person, and we're going to smile for this person.' So, we have to be her and honor her on stage," said Brittany Cosgrove, the victim's friend.

Lunn was driving back from the American Dance Awards contest at Governor's State University Friday night when, shortly before 10 p.m., her SUV was struck by an Amtrak train as she crossed the tracks at University Park.

Witnesses at the scene of the accident say the signal lights weren't working and the gate did not come down until the train had almost passed.

One of those witnesses was Cook County prosecutor Lauren Brown. She says her car barely cleared the tracks at the railroad crossing that night. Brown explained that there were two sets of tracks, and it wasn't until she crossed the first set, that the oncoming train honked its horn to warn her.

"Nothing would have indicated that a train was coming at all. It didn't honk; the only time it honked, was when I was on the track. There was no way, no possible way, once, even if Katie heard that honk and started to turn out of the way, if she was going just the normal rate of speed as the rest of the traffic, that she could have gotten out of the way at that point," Brown told ABC7 Chicago.

Sadly, Katie was not originally supposed to be at Governor's State. Instead, she had initially planned on being in rehearsal for Sunday's dance show at the Copernicus Theater.

"We had a rehearsal yesterday that Katie arranged her schedule to be at because we had a workshop on Friday, and we keep thinking that if we wouldn't have arranged our schedule, she would have been with us," friend Shelley Mitchell said.

"Katie was one of those really influential and positive people in our company. She was just an amazing spirit, and she was a big part of the family," said a man who identified himself as Suave, executive director of the "Hip Hop Connxion."

In addition to dancing with that company, Katie Lunn also was a dance instructor at the Joffrey Ballet School and at Naperville's School of the Performing Arts.

Visibly upset as the rehearsed for Sunday's event, the Hip Hop Connxion troupe comforted each other on stage and went over a special tribute to Katie that was not part of the original plan.

"There's going to be a spotlight with shoes. We're taking our shoes off. As some of you know, hip hop dancers are very particular about their shoes, and it's kind of symbolic because we're a hip hop dance crew to take our shoes off and just honor her," Mitchell said.

A spokesperson for CN Railroad confirms crews were working on the tracks earlier Friday but would not say if the signals were malfunctioning.

The cause of the accident is under investigation.


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