11-year-old girl among five dead in crashes on I-55; semi driver charged

Written By SUN-TIMES MEDIA WIRE Posted: 08/23/2014, 06:24am

CHANNAHON — An 11-year-old girl was among five people killed in two crashes occurring just minutes apart Monday afternoon on Interstate 55, Illinois State Police said.

A tractor-trailer rig driver has been charged in connection with the first of the two crashes, which happened about 2:15 p.m. near southwest suburban Channahon.

Five people also were injured.

The semitrailer was speeding northbound into a construction zone on I-55 near Arsenal Road when it abruptly changed lanes, causing a chain-reaction crash involving two cars and a van and killing four people, according to state police.

The Will County Coroner’s office identified the dead as: Piper Britton, 11, and Kimberly K. Britton, 43, both of Urbana; Vicky L. Palacios, 54, of Coal City; and Urlike P. Blopleh 48, of Channahon.

All four were pronounced dead at the scene at 4 p.m., the coroner’s office said.

State police Cmdr. Randy Ness said the three vehicles involved in the initial crash were a Kia, in which the driver and a passenger were killed; a Chevrolet van with four occupants in which a front passenger died; and a Dodge Challenger in which one person was killed.

Four people from that crash were injured, with one airlifted to a hospital, police said. They said the cars and the van were stopped in the construction zone when struck by the semi.

Sixteen minutes after the first crash, a rear-end collision occurred in the southbound lanes at U.S. 6, involving two semitrailers. Both drivers were taken to a hospital with what appeared at first to be minor injuries, police said. However, one driver later died from what police believe might be a medical condition.

He was identified as Deividas Mockus, 41, of Darien, according to the coroner’s office. He was pronounced dead at Presence St. Joseph Health in Joliet at 4:29 p.m.

At a news conference, Ness said police believe the tractor-trailer in the first crash was exceeding 55 mph through the construction zone, based on eyewitness accounts as well as the state police preliminary investigation.

The driver, Francisco Espinal Quiroz, 51, of Leesburg, Ind., was charged with felony counts of keeping a false log book and willfully making false entries, according to State Police Sgt. Chris Wilkes. He was also cited for failure to reduce speed to prevent an accident.

He was taken for mandatory drug and alcohol testing after the crash, Ness said.

Quiroz is being held in the Will County Jail and is expected to appear in bond court later Tuesday, Wilkes said.

I-55 was cleared shortly after 9 p.m. and is expected to be open for rush hour traffic Tuesday, Ness said.

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