Jeffery Bellinger, 13, honored at Cedar Lake vigil after killed by train

CEDAR LAKE, Ind. (WLS) -- Classmates, friends and relatives honored Jeffery Bellinger, 13, at a Cedar Lake church Wednesday night. He was killed Tuesday afternoon when he was hit by a freight train while walking home from school.

"He was smiling all the time, genuinely cared about how his family members felt, how his friends felt," said Jennifer Burrink, victim's aunt.

"He was a very generous, forgiving person, very loving, and trustworthy. And we're going to miss him a lot," said Chris Burrink, victim's friend. "Cherish the ones that you have in your life because you don't know when it's their time."

Bellinger's mother said the last time she spoke to her son, he was calling to say he was walking home from school. The Hanover Central Middle School student never made it.

"He called me from school and asked if he could walk home. And I told him he could," Jessica Bellinger said. Jeffery was her only child.

He was struck and killed by a freight train on Tuesday afternoon in the 8900-block of 137th Avenue in Cedar Lake, Ind., while walking near the tracks.

"I started calling him and wasn't getting any answer. Then I heard there was an incident on the train tracks. Didn't know it was him at the time," Bellinger said.

Police said the teenager was wearing earphones under his hoodie and didn't hear the oncoming train, which sounded its horn. His death was ruled accidental.

Hanover Community School District Superintendent Tom Taylor said the school warned students not to walk on the train tracks. Bellinger said she also spoke with her son about the dangers.

"While, ironically, we've had that discussion with our students probably a year and half ago. In particular at our high school we've always suggested that they have one earbud in and one earbud out," Taylor said.

"There's no sidewalks on Parrish. No sidewalks on Lake Shore Drive. No sidewalks anywhere. So kids feel it's more dangerous to walk on the street," she said.

Grief counselors were at the school, which has about 500 students, Wednesday.

"It's a very close-knit school community. And so this is going to devastate a lot of people. We'll have to work our way through," Taylor said.

Four years ago, another student was killed in a train wreck.

A benefit is planned to help Bellinger's mother with funeral expenses. It will be held Friday, March 20 from 3 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. at 13140 Lake Shore Drive. An organizer for the benefit has also launched a GoFundMe page for the family.

Jeffery Bellinger, 13, was struck and killed by a CSX freight train while walking home from school in Cedar Lake, Indiana.

(Photo courtesy of the Northwest Indiana Times)

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