Starved Rock

Families of 3 Men Killed in Explosion Near Starved Rock File Lawsuit

The three men each leave behind a family, including seven children between the ages of 3 and 15.

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The families of three men who died after allegedly accidentally igniting an explosive device near northern Illinois' Starved Rock State Park filed a lawsuit against construction and blasting companies responsible for the device.

According to the lawsuit from Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard, P.C., brothers 39-year-old Immer Rivera Tejada and 36-year-old Rafael Riveria Tejada, along with their nephew 26-year-old Guillermo Rivera Tejada, were at Starved Rock on May 6 to go fishing along the Illinois River.

While creating a campfire to cook their fish, the three men found a copper pipe and used it to prop up their cast iron pan, the lawsuit said. Allegedly unknown to the three men, the copper pipe was actually an explosive rod used by nearby construction and blasting companies working on old Rt. 178.

At approximately 7:15 p.m., the lawsuit said the copper pipe heated up due to exposure to heat from the fire and exploded, killing the three men.

“To a person with no knowledge of explosive devices, the object the Rivera Tejadas found near their fishing site would have looked like a harmless copper pipe,” the families' attorney Patrick Salvi said.

According to the lawsuit, an investigation by the Illinois State Police revealed that about 100 yards from where the men found the device, construction and blasting companies used the same device during a March 18 planned detonation of old Rt. 178 bridge.

However, the investigation further showed that eleven days following March 18, the same companies found an explosive device that did not detonate as planned during the anticipated March 18 detonation. The finding was not reported, according to attorneys.

"The lawsuit claims the construction and blasting companies failed to control explosives at all times and failed to perform an adequate post-blast inspection. The lawsuit alleges the construction and blasting companies failed to prevent an explosive device from falling into a layperson’s hands, even after discovering one of their undetonated explosive devices eleven days after the initial detonation," the law office said in a release.

The three men each leave behind a family, including seven children between the ages of 3 and 15. All three Rivera Tejada men lived within a few blocks of one another in Chicago's Little Village neighborhood.

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