Earlier this month, three men fishing near Starved Rock State Park, Illinois, died in a mysterious blast. Authorities identified the anglers as brothers Inmer and Rafael Rivera Tejada, 39 and 36, and their nephew Guillermo Rivera Tejada, 26, all of Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood.
“A day that was supposed to be a family fishing outing turned out to be one of nightmares and tragedy,” said a GoFundMe campaign dedicated to the family.
According to LaSalle County Coroner Rich Ploch, the fuel for the fatal explosion was black powder in a hole. Ploch said it appeared as though the men were trying to light a fire to cook food, which was found nearby. The family isn’t convinced of this explanation, though.
Attorney Tara R. Devine, who is representing the Tejadas, said there’s no reason to believe the anglers would knowingly use explosives. She raised the possibility that the deaths are connected to nearby demolition work on a bridge over the Illinois River. According to the Chicago Sun Times, construction crews used explosives in March to remove steel spans from the bridge, which is close to where the Tejadas were fishing. Devine is seeking an investigation into what blasting work took place and the cleanup that followed.
“We will be hiring some of the best experts in the country to assist us in our investigation and hopefully bring peace of mind to Inmer, Rafael, and Guillermo’s family,” Devine said in a statement. “When something like this happens to three dads, it should be looked at really closely. We want answers.”
State police have provided no further update on the investigation or autopsy.
Inmer, Rafael, and Guillermo leave behind seven children from ages 2 to 14. MeatEater sends its condolences to the family.
Feature image of Route 178 bridge implosion from March, 2021.