PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — An East Peoria man “selflessly” tried to remove debris from an accident early Monday morning; a move which cost him his life, the Peoria County Coroner said.
Jamie Harwood said Christopher Neff, 49, was “selflessly engaged in the retrieval of debris from the roadway, stemming from a prior, unrelated motor vehicle collision when he was struck by a passing car.”
Neff, the coroner said, was using proactive safety measures, which included wearing neon clothing and having caution lights illuminated on his construction vehicle.
The incident occurred around 6:20 a.m. in Chillicothe near the Kroger store on Illinois Route 29 where it intersects with North Hillcrest Drive. Two vehicles, a pick-up truck and an SUV, had collided and Neff had gone into the roadway to remove debris from that crash when he was struck, according to police and Harwood.
He was pronounced dead at 7:20 a.m. Neff suffered multiple blunt force trauma injuries and likely died instantly. Toxicology is pending per Illinois State statute, the coroner said.
“This tragic occurrence serves as a poignant reminder of the ever-present dangers on our roadways, even when precautions are taken,” Harwood stated. “Let us collectively emphasize the significance of road safety, always being vigilant for pedestrians, and consistently prioritizing safety in our daily actions.”
Christopher’s sister Michelle reflected on her brother’s life. She remembered him as a man with a great personality who loved children, adopting or becoming the guardian of 16 over the course of his life.
“We’ve always been there to lean on one another, through divorces, marriages, holidays, everything, and that’s what I’ll miss,” she said.
Michelle also said he was a huge fan of the San Francisco 49ers and the St. Louis Cardinals. She added that he was the “life of the party” and enjoyed family cookouts.
Harwood brought up that he was appalled by drivers who he noticed recording the investigation on their cell phones.
“It’s an utter lack of respect for the person who lost their life and to their family,” Harwood continued, “I want to caution people in that it could be their loved one someday and you would want better for your loved one than what Mr. Neff got yesterday from some of our public.”
This incident remains under investigation by Illinois State Police.