Friends, family gather to remember Clearfield youth killed by FrontRunner

Apr 24 2010 - 9:21pm

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(ERIN HOOLEY/Standard-Examiner) Friends and family gather by candlelight to remember 14-year-old JJ Reyes.
(ERIN HOOLEY/Standard-Examiner) Friends and family gather by candlelight to remember 14-year-old JJ Reyes.

Slideshow: Vigil for teen killed by FrontRunner train

CLEARFIELD -- Jerry Reyes was grateful for the family and friends who were gathering at his home Thursday night to remember his son.

JJ Reyes, a 14-year-old North Davis Junior High School student, was struck and killed by a FrontRunner train Thursday morning.

"He had lots of friends. People have been stopping by," Jerry said. "It means a lot. I know my son was appreciated not only by his family, but in society for what he did. He was never sad, he always loved to help out."

At dusk, mourners continued to arrive at the Reyes family's Clearfield home while they prepared to hold a candlelight vigil for JJ.

Rob Reyes said he was JJ's uncle.

"He loved everything. Everything in this world. He just couldn't wait to get older, you know what I mean -- to get there," Rob said. "He loved every sport there was. I just can't believe he's gone. He loved his family. He loved his brother and (two) sisters. I loved him very much."

JJ's given name was Gerardo, like his father, but he went by JJ -- Jerry Junior. JJ was a great boy, Jerry said.

"He had a lot of dreams. He wanted to play for the NFL, the Philadelphia Eagles. That's all he bragged about," he said. "He loved lowriders, he loved art. He is going to be missed a lot."

JJ had saved money to buy rims this weekend for the 1979 Buick Regal they were restoring together, Jerry said as the Regal sat parked in the driveway. The boy was looking forward to turning 15 in July and getting his driver's license the next year. "He was excited for his car."

News of JJ's death was a heartbreaking shock to his father.

"I didn't know how to take it. I was mad at the world. I just wanted to scream," Jerry said. "I still want to scream."

JJ's family confirmed his death, though police cannot make an official confirmation until DNA tests are returned.

Police said they are about 90 percent certain they know the victim's identity, but the trauma to the body made it impossible for authorities to make a positive identification at the scene.

Family members of the boy have been able to identify clothing found at the crash scene that appears to belong to him, said Assistant Police Chief Greg Krusi.

"This is an extremely tragic event that has taken place," Krusi said. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family."

The Utah Transit Authority commuter train struck the boy around 7:20 a.m. as he tried to cross the tracks just north of the Center Street bridge. It appears the boy gained access to the tracks by crawling under a chain-link fence.

Police said there were no witnesses to the accident other than the train engineer. It took them several hours to investigate the scene that was 225 yards long.

Krusi said the boy was not a troubled teen, and his department is still trying to figure out why he would cross the tracks where he did when there is a pedestrian overpass just above where he was struck.

There are more unusual circumstances surrounding the boy's death.

According to police, the boy had taken off his jacket and placed it, as well as a stack of school books, on the side of the tracks just before he was struck by the train.

The boy was also walking in the opposite direction of the junior high school.

"We're not certain where he was heading," Krusi said. "If his route was to go to school, he was off track."

UTA spokesman Gerry Carpenter said FrontRunner trains in that area generally travel 79 miles per hour. The train engineer was given a toxicology test and will be placed on paid administrative leave, as is standard UTA policy in such incidents.

FrontRunner train service between Roy and Clearfield reopened about 10:45 a.m. For more than three hours prior to that, buses shuttled passengers between the stations, and commuters were delayed on average about an hour.

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