PANA, Ill. — Residents of a central Illinois city are mourning after five elderly residents were killed when a freight train struck their minivan.
The accident happened Wednesday evening as they drove home to Pana (PAY’-nuh) after an ice cream social in a nearby town.
Christian County sheriff’s deputy Tyler Castle responded to the crash and discovered the victims included his grandparents, John and Mary Castle. Both were 89.
The local sheriff says the deputy was pulled from the scene and is on leave while he grieves.
“Unfortunately, this happens all over the United States: Police officers respond to calls and find it’s their own loved ones that are involved,” Sheriff Bruce Kettelkamp said. “This one has really affected the whole sheriff’s office because we’re all one family and when one person is hurting, we’re all hurting. There are a lot of heavy hearts around here today.”
Also killed were 87-year-old Mary Pugsley, 79-year-old Herbert Castle and 77-year-old Nell Castle.
The local coroner says Pugsley was Mary Castle’s sister-in-law, and Herbert and John Castle were brothers.
Friends say the families often did social activities together.
Kettelkamp described the Castles as friendly, hard-working people who were regular churchgoers. He said he crossed paths with them at numerous social events.
Illinois State Police officials are investigating the incident.