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Cops: No link in railroad deaths

September 28, 2006
BY KAREN SNELLING Post-Tribune

HOBART -- Eight days before Seth Thomas's body was spotted on Norfolk Southern's railroad track west of the Ash Street crossing, the body of another young man was discovered on the east side of the same crossing.

The Ash Street crossing leads to the entrance of Pavese Park, where for years young people have gathered to have late night drinking parties, a city worker said.

Police Lt. Leo Finnerty said he has no evidence to indicate the two deaths are linked in any way.
Authorities are still investigating the circumstances that led to Thomas being fatally struck by a passing east-west train.

But the earlier Sept. 15 train death of a 21-year-old Hobart man has been ruled a suicide by the Lake County coroner's office.

"If I had a note that said this kid (Thomas) did it because the other kid did it, I'd be concerned. But I don't have a note," Finnerty said, adding, "Second, I don't have anything to say they knew each other."

Thomas was killed by a passing freight train sometime between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m. Saturday, one day before his 24th birthday, Finnerty said.

At 7:08 a.m. the engineer of another train saw the body on the track, within 200 feet of Ash Street, initiated emergency stop procedures and called Hobart police. Thomas was pronounced dead at the scene an hour later.

Friends speculate that he was snapping pictures while standing on the active east-west rail line. Police recovered a camera and camera tripod that had been smashed in pieces near the track.
"When something like this happens you certainly don't want to think they did it on purpose," Finnerty said. "And until we prove otherwise, we certainly are not saying that."
The coroner's office is awaiting the results of toxicology tests before ruling on the cause of Thomas' death.

Meanwhile, the father of the 21-year-old suicide victim declined to talk about his son's death, saying it was a private matter.

"This is so unfortunate. I would rather be chasing bad guys," Finnerty said.
Contact Karen Snelling at 648-3106 or ksnelling@post-trib.com