Freshman girl fatally struck by train in NW Ind.

May 24, 2012 (CEDAR LAKE, Ind.)

Sgt. Keith Wood said Chloe Burks, 15, of St. John, was struck by a southbound train while she was walking south along the tracks.

"It appears she had both headphones in her ears at the time," said Wood. "She never saw the train coming. She never even turned around."

Officials say the tragic accident happened around 3:40pm after Burks walked a friend home after school. Friends say she then headed back to school for soccer practice, walking along the tracks while listening to music. Police say the high school freshman died after she was struck by a 75-car freight train.

Authorities are continuing to investigate the incident.

Police closed the street at the railroad tracks and diverted traffic for about four hours while they investigated. Cedar Lake police were being assisted by the accident reconstruction team from the Lake County Sheriff's Department.

A handful of students who attempted to approach the tracks broke down in tears when they learned of the tragedy.

Fellow classmate and neighbor Alec Sebastian of St. John, who was at McDonald's, said he just spoke to Burks a few days ago and was shocked to learn of her death.

"She was really nice. I lived down the street from her. She was really nice and seemed to have a lot of friends," Sebastian said. He said Burks moved to the Hanover system from Florida in eighth grade.

"It's just unbelievable. Seeing that train and all the police, it is like a dream. I was just talking to her three days ago," he said.

Hanover Community School Board President Mary Joan Dickson said Principal Justin Biggs will meet with staff members in the morning and has reached out to ministers within the community to be available for those students who may need help coping with Burks' death.

"Chloe's death is a great loss not only to her family but to our school community itself," a tearful Dickson said.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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