Lawsuit filed in death of 3 men killed in explosion at Starved Rock State Park

ByJudy Hsu and ABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Thursday, September 23, 2021
Lawsuit filed in explosion death of 3 men at Starved Rock State Park
EMBED <>More Videos

Inmer, Rafael and Guillermo Rivera Tejada were killed in an explosion along the Illinois River near Starved Rock State Park in LaSalle County in May.

LASALLE COUNTY Ill. (WLS) -- A lawsuit has been filed in the deaths of three Chicago men who were killed at Starved Rock State Park earlier this year.

Inmer, Rafael and Guillermo Rivera Tejada were killed in an explosion along the Illinois River in LaSalle County in May.

Several agencies responded to reports of an explosion in the area of the Route 178 bridge. When they arrived, they found the men dead due to injuries sustained from the blast, according to police.

At the time of the incident, officials said the explosion was not related to the recent demolition of the old Route 178 bridge.

WATCH: Drone video captures bridge implosion over Illinois River

But after months of investigations, the family now firmly believes the fatal explosion was caused by a device meant for a nearby bridge demolition that never detonated.

"These men were our brothers and husbands," said Maluc Cordoba-Arce. "These men were three pillars of our family. Our children will now grow up without their dads."

Cordoba-Arce, the wife of Immer Rivera Tejada, said it was supposed to be a fun trip with two brothers and a nephew. Their tight-knit Chicago family is now forever united by an immense and unnecessary loss.

"Today I'm here to pursue the justice and accountability our family deserves," Cordoba-Arce said.

In May, the three men of the Rivera Tejada family went fishing as they often did. But the family's attorney said what led to the fatal explosion dates back to March, when three construction and blasting companies were in charge of demolishing a nearby bridge. The family's attorney said what was left behind was unknowingly used by the men to prop up a cast iron pan to cook their fish, thinking it was just a copper pipe.

"As it turns out, this copper pipe was an undetonated linear-shaped charge - an explosive device most recently used in the demolition of the Route 178 bridge less than two months earlier," said Patrick Salvi, the family's attorney.

The wrongful death lawsuit claims the companies failed to control the explosive materials at all times and failed to perform an adequate post-blast inspection.

"This lawsuit is filed on behalf of the family because this fatal occurrence should have never happened, very avoidable," Salvi said.

Whatever the outcome is in court, there are now 7 children ages 3 to 15 left behind. All three men were fathers.

"There are still days I wake up and find for a moment I forget my husband is dead," Cordoba-Arce said. "And everyday our children are reminded that their fathers are never coming back."

Eyewitness News contacted each of the construction companies named in the lawsuit and has not heard back.