Another Illinois State Police trooper was killed in a crash with a wrong-way driver early Saturday in north suburban Green Oaks, marking the latest casualty for a police force that has seen a massive spike in traffic collisions with patrollers this year.
Trooper Gerald Ellis, 36, was on duty and about to head home in his police SUV about 3:25 a.m. on Interstate 94 when a vehicle traveling east in the westbound lanes struck him head on, according to Illinois State Police.
Ellis — an 11-year veteran of District 15 in Downers Grove, which patrols Illinois tollways — was taken to Condell Medical Center in Libertyville and pronounced dead at 4:04 a.m.
The wrong-way driver, identified Monday as 44-year-old Dan Davies, was also killed in the crash, state police and the Lake County coroner’s office said. He lived in Calumet City.
Autopsies found both men died from multiple injuries related to the crash, the coroner’s office said. Their toxicology results were pending.
Libertyville, IL: @ILStatePolice trooper was killed early this morning on the Tri-State Tollway after a #WrongWay driver slammed into his squad head-on in the northbound lanes near Rt.176:— Captured News (@CapturedNews) March 30, 2019
-Multiple ambulances responded
-#Trooper succumbed to his injuries at the hospital. #LODD pic.twitter.com/d24oz02kAb
Ellis is the third trooper to die after being struck by another vehicle this year — and the second in three days, following the Thursday death of 34-year-old Trooper Brooke Jones-Story, who was hit by a semitrailer near Rockford.
It’s been about 22 years since two Illinois troopers were killed in such a short timeframe, and 66 years since the force has suffered three trooper deaths in a single year, ISP Acting Director Brendan Kelly said.
“And it’s still only March,” Kelly told reporters during a press conference following the lengthy police procession that carried Ellis’ body from the hospital to the Lake County coroner’s office.
Kelly called his department’s latest on-duty death “bitter salt in an open wound.”
“I ask everyone to consider the fragility of life each and every time you get behind the wheel of a vehicle,” he said. “How many more of these tragedies have to occur at the hands of drivers making dangerous choices behind the wheel? When will drivers open their eyes to the dangers they face and take them seriously?”
Kelly met with Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday to discuss the spike in crashes involving troopers, urging the public to drive cautiously around emergency vehicles.
“This year is frankly unprecedented when looking at all statistics,” Kelly said then. “This is a new level of disregard that we’re seeing by some driving members of the public.”
ISP’s first on-duty death this year came Jan. 12, when Trooper Christopher Lambert was hit by a car after stopping to help at the scene of a three-car crash on I-294 in north suburban Glenview.
A Wisconsin man was charged in that case with reckless homicide of an officer and two counts of reckless homicide involving Scott’s Law, which says that drivers must move over and slow down for emergency vehicles.
Nearly 500 violations of the Scott’s Law — named for Chicago Fire Department Lt. Scott Gillen, who was killed on an expressway in 2000 — have been logged so far this year, compared to just 184 during the same period last year, according to Kelly, who has pinned the uptick on distracted and impaired driving.
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White joined Kelly Saturday in “issuing a call to action to motorists throughout Illinois: Stop driving while distracted. Stop texting while driving. Stop driving while impaired.
“Please protect those who protect us by moving over when approaching a stopped emergency vehicle,” White said in a statement.
Ellis, a U.S. military veteran, is survived by his wife, two children, parents and brother.
“By doing what he did today, he saved lives,” Kelly said.