Attorney: Explosion that killed 3 near Starved Rock park may be linked to demo work

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Inmer, Rafael, and Guillermo Tejada. Photo provided.

NORTH UTICA, Ill. (AP) – An explosion that killed three Chicago men last week near a state park in northern Illinois may have been connected to a nearby bridge demolition project, an attorney for their relatives said.

Brothers Inmer Rivera Tejada, 39, and Rafael Rivera Tejada, 36, and their nephew Guillermo Rivera Tejada, 26, were found dead May 6 near the Route 178 bridge over the Illinois River, which is close to the Starved Rock State Park in North Utica.

Explosives had been used in March to remove steel spans from the bridge, which has been replaced by a new one, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Attorney Tara R. Devine told the newspaper that she believes demolition work at the site had continued, but did not provide specifics. The family’s legal team wants an investigation into what work took place and what clean-up followed, Devine said.

Officials have said the men were killed when they ignited black powder. LaSalle County Coroner Rich Ploch told the Chicago Sun-Times last week that the men may have been fishing that day along the Illinois River and possibly ignited the powder while trying to light a fire to cook food.

Devine said in a statement Wednesday that “there is no reason to believe” that they were “knowingly using explosive devices.”

Devine said all three men lived in and around Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood and often went fishing together at Starved Rock, which is about 75 miles (120 kilometers) southwest of Chicago.

She said the men left behind seven children.

“When something like this happens to three dads, it should be looked at really closely,” Devine told the Sun-Times. “We want answers. … We want to determine responsibility.”

Autopsy results will likely take a few weeks while Illinois State Police investigate the explosion.

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