Trucker charged in crash that killed tollway worker, injured state trooper

Written By BY JON SEIDEL Staff Reporter Posted: 03/03/2014, 02:05pm
Array An Illinois Tollway employee was killed and a state trooper was seriously injured in a crash on I-88 in west suburban Aurora Monday night, authorities said. / photo by NVP News.

A Hanover Park man has been criminally charged in connection with a fatal crash on Interstate 88 Monday that killed an Illinois Tollway employee and seriously injured a state trooper.

Renato V. Velasquez, 46, was charged with operating a commercial motor vehicle while impaired or fatigued, making a false report of record and duty status, and driving beyond the 14- and 11-hour rules, all felonies, according to the Illinois State Police.

He was also charged with failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident and failure to yield to stationary emergency vehicles, state police said. He’s been taken to DuPage County jail and will appear at a bond hearing Wednesday.

Vincent Petrella became the first Illinois Tollway employee in more than a decade to be killed on the job in the fiery crash that also critically injured Trooper Douglas J. Balder.

The crash conjured memories of the Tri-State Tollway crash 10 months ago that killed Trooper James Sauter, whose squad car was parked on the shoulder of the expressway when it was hit by a semitrailer.

Balder, 38, was helping Petrella, 39, with a broken-down semi about 9:45 p.m. Monday near Aurora, in the right-hand lane and shoulder, on the eastbound side of I-88, according to authorities.

That’s when a second semi crashed into them, said State Police spokeswoman Monique Bond. Balder was taken to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, officials said. Petrella was pronounced dead at the scene.

A 13-year veteran of the tollway who began his career there as a toll collector in 2001, Petrella became an equipment operator laborer in 2005. Among his responsibilities was to work with state police and other emergency personnel to deal with incidents on the expressway, tollway spokeswoman Wendy Abrams said.

She said Petrella is the first tollway employee to be killed on the job since Paul Liotine, of West Chicago, was hit by a truck in September 2003 while replacing plastic reflectors in the pavement.

Illinois State Police Director Hiram Grau asked motorists Tuesday to respect Scott’s Law, which requires drivers to slow down and yield the right of way to emergency vehicles with activated flashing lights. Bond said the lights on Balder’s squad car were activated Monday.

Petrella’s sister, Maria, said she grew up with her brother on Taylor Street in Chicago’s Little Italy neighborhood. That’s where she said he got one of his first jobs putting tags on cars at a valet service. She said her brother moved to northwest suburban Wheeling about seven years ago and lived there with his wife and two children: a 7-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy.

Heidi Miller, Balder’s former sister-in-law, said Balder and his wife “are amazing people” who kept in touch with her son for years. She said Balder also called her son upon his graduation from Marine boot camp in November.

Donna Morsovillo, founder of Operation Welcome You Home in Naperville, confirmed Balder joined the Navy as a reservist in 1994. Navy records show he served in Africa from October 2012 until June 2013.

“He’s a remarkable man,” Miller said.

Contributing: Sun-Times Media Wire


Twitter: @SeidelContent

Contributing: LeeAnn Shelton

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