CHICAGO — The family of three men killed in an explosion at Starved Rock State Park in May says they died because negligent demolition companies lost track of explosives.
The family of brothers Inmer Rivera Tejada, 39, Rafael Rivera Tejada, 36, and their nephew Guillermo Rivera Tejada, 26, said that words couldn’t describe the pain of losing them all at once. However, the family added that their deaths were preventable, which is why they have decided to file a lawsuit against the companies they deem responsible.
The Tejada brothers and their nephew all lived on the same block in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood with their families and seven children.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE: 3 dead after black powder device explodes near Starved Rock State Park
“These men were our brothers, fathers and husbands. These men were three pillars of their family,” said Inmer Rivera Tejada’s wife, Maluc Cordoba-Arce.
Cordoba-Arce said the trio loved to fish at Starved Rock State Park. Back in May, Inmer video called his son from one of those trips.
“It was just my husband sharing that they were fishing and caught a fish and they were about to cook it and he told my son he would take him another day, so he was very excited,” Cordoba-Arce said.
But minutes after that call, the family’s lawyers said a catastrophic explosion at the site killed all three men. The lawyers say the blast was caused by what the men thought was a copper pipe they found and used to prop up their pan over the fire.
“Unbeknownst to them, this was no copper pipe. As it turns out, this copper pipe was an undetonated linear-shaped charge,” said attorney Patrick Salvi.
That explosive was left behind, lawyers said, after this demolition of the nearby Route 178 bridge less than two months earlier.
The families are now suing the three companies involved in the demolition – D Construction, Gillan Construction and Orica USA – alleging their negligence led to tragedy.
“There was not just this one device left behind,” Salvi said. “The investigation revealed just 11 days after the initial demolition, another linear shape charged was found and not surprisingly, contrary to Illinois law, was not reported.”
The lawyers say careful inspection after the demolition and once more after another device was found would have prevented the three fathers’ deaths.
“Today, I’m here to pursue the justice and the accountably that our family deserves and most importantly to prevent any other family from going through what my family is going through each and every day,” Cordoba-Arce.
The attorneys say residue found on the victims matched the explosives used in the bridge demolition. WGN News reached out to the companies named in the lawsuit. None provided comment for this report.