Loved ones mourn dance teacher killed by train

April 22, 2010 5:51:32 AM PDT
Messages were pouring into a tribute page on Facebook in 26-year-old Katie Lunn's memory. Friends write about what a happy person she was and how she influenced so many through her work teaching dance.

"She just always had a magnificent smile, she'd light up any room that she came into. We're missing that," said Jerry Lunn, Katie's father.

Lunn came from a close family in Fort Dodge, Iowa. They are trying to remember her life, not the tragic circumstances that ended it on April 16 as she was driving home from a dance competition at Governor's State University.

Lunn's SUV was caught on the tracks between other cars when an Amtrak train plowed into her at full speed, killing her instantly. The Chicago Tribune reported railroad workers witnessed the crash. They were reportedly at the scene to check on the grade-crossing protection system, which was apparently not operating at the time.

Witnesses said the lights and gates failed to operate, giving Lunn and other drivers no warning of approaching trains.

"It's just difficult. The suddenness of a young person who helped so many other people, that's just really hard for us," Barbara Yokom, School of Performing Arts.

Yokom is executive director of the Naperville school where Lunn taught dance and, Yokom says, much more.

"She wanted everyone to excel and bring out the best in everyone," she said.

Friends have posted dozens of pictures of the happy 26-year-old who lived in Lincoln Park and loved going to Cubs games, the lakefront and whatever else life in Chicago had to offer. But most of all, she loved dance and she shared that love with her students.

"It's great to see how many lives she inspired and impacted in a positive way. She's going to be truly missed.," said Yokom.

It may be months before federal investigators are ready to release their conclusions about the train collision.

Services for Lunn are planned for Friday and Saturday in her hometown of Fort Dodge.


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