The family of a 16-year-old Belleville boy who was killed after being struck by a car says they’re still looking for answers months after the tragedy.
Garrick Curran said his son, Cameron Curran, was his “best friend” and a hard-working teen who did well in school. It’s been seven months since the boy’s death, but the 43-year-old father holds on to Cameron’s memory through photos and videos the family saved on their phones, down to the bright orange Nike shoes Cameron was wearing on the day he died — Oct. 11, 2015.
The driver of the car, 27-year-old Justin W. Schulte, was charged in May with reckless conduct. Schulte has pleaded not guilty, and his attorney described the death as “an unfortunate incident” for all parties.
The teen’s family says they’re seeking justice.
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Garrick said he was at his home on Berkshire Drive when the crash happened. His girlfriend’s son, Noah Valentine, was celebrating his 14th birthday. Garrick, his girlfriend Michelle Valentine, Cameron and Valentine’s two children — ages 12 and 14 —lived together in a house in Stookey Township.
Cameron went on a bike ride before dusk. Garrick said his son often liked to ride around on his black-and-green bicycle. On the night of the crash, the teenager was due to return home in time to watch the season premiere of “The Walking Dead.”
“I was actually sitting in the backyard, and I heard tires screech. Then I started texting Cameron. No reply,” Garrick said. “I heard the whole thing. Sirens and everything.”
Illinois State Police troopers were dispatched to the 6500 block of Old St. Louis Road at 7:24 p.m. Before a trooper arrived on scene, firefighters and paramedics said the boy was already deceased. In a report, police noted “two orange tennis shoes laying in the pavement approximately 50 feet apart” and “one pair of skid marks in the eastbound lane.” The trooper said the boy’s body and damaged bicycle were found off the right side of the road.
Garrick identified his son’s body after arriving on the scene. A police report noted the father was escorted from the scene to a nearby location.
“I think I’ll relive that for the rest of my life. Now that you look back on it, it’s like I wasn’t even on earth,” Garrick said. “It was surreal and just weird. I think about that every day.”
The crash report noted that the driver, Schulte, had a Missouri driver’s license and was driving a 1986 Mercury Grand Marquis, which had damage to the front end. The teen’s bicycle was hit by the car from behind.
Schulte told police his instrument dash lights “suddenly went out.” The police report says he looked down “for a brief moment” and then looked up to see a person — Cameron — riding a bicycle in front of his car.
Police noted that Schulte stated “it was very dark” and that the teen was wearing dark clothing. Schulte told the trooper that the bicyclist was riding about 2 feet from the shoulder of the road, and he said he had no time to brake. The driver said he stopped his car to call for help.
Police said Schulte showed no indication of impairment during sobriety tests.
For the next few months, the family was left wondering what would happen next as State Police worked to investigate the accident.
Garrick said State Police had informed him over the phone “about a month ago or so” that they would not be seeking criminal charges against the driver.
However, things changed when State Police completed an accident-reconstruction study.
St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly’s office reviewed the report and charged Schulte with reckless conduct causing great bodily harm. The felony charge was issued May 2, more than six months after Cameron’s death.
Kelly, in an interview, said he was unable to comment further on evidence, but based on court documents, authorities believe excessive speeding led to the boy’s death. The posted speed limit on Old St. Louis Road, also known as Illinois 13, is 40 mph.
The police report states that Schulte told police he was going 35 to 40 mph, but “could not be sure of his speed given that his dash lights had gone out.”
Family members say they have responded to some claims suggesting Cameron may have been riding in the middle of the road.
“There are so many little things that don’t jive with me,” Garrick said. “I can’t say that Cameron wasn’t like a foot from the white line. Bikes have the right-of-way.”
The family said they received “overwhelming” support from students and staff of Belleville West, where Cameron went to high school. And since charges were filed earlier this month, the teen’s father said he’s feeling anxious to see the case move forward. The family said they want “the fullest extent of the law.”
“It’s just weird, because we have a loud house, and when Cameron was here, it was even louder,” Garrick said. “Now, our house is quieter.”