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Macomb Historian & Activist Killed in Crash with Train

Emily Boyer
Investigators remained on the scene of the crash well into Thursday afternoon.

Gil Belles, age 76, professor emeritus of Western Illinois University's Recreation, Park, and Tourism Administration (RPTA) department, was killed when his car collided with an Amtrak train.

Credit Courtesy of Western Illinois University
Gil Belles

The crash happened around 11:00 a.m. Thursday near 7800 E and Route 136 between Macomb and Colchester.

The McDonough County Sheriff’s Department said no one else was in the car.

In a news release issued late Thursday afternoon, WIU President Jack Thomas said, “He was a wonderful man, and will be missed. We send our deepest condolences to Gil's many friends, his family and to the members of his WIU family."

The release said Belles came to Western in 1968 and was involved in countless group and activities over the years, including Open Door, the President's Task Force to End Homophobia, the Performing Arts Society, YMCA of McDonough County, the Western Illinois Museum, Meals on Wheels, McDonough County Historical Society, and the Macomb Public Library. 

Belles was also an active supporter of Tri-States Public Radio and Tri-States Audio Information Services

The university said arrangements are pending at Dodsworth-Piper-Wallen Funeral Home. 

The Amtrak train was headed to Quincy after making a stop in Macomb.  No one on the train was injured.

There is a stop sign posted at the crossing where the crash happened but there are no gates or crossing lights.  Illinois State Police said Belles failed to stop at the rural crossing.

The sheriff’s department said an Illinois State Police accident reconstruction team was called in from Springfield to investigate the crash.