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Trucker gets 3 years for I-88 crash that killed tollway worker, injured trooper

A semi truck driver has been sentenced to three years in prison for driving fatigued and causing an I-88 crash last year that killed a tollway worker and severely injured a state trooper.

Renato Velasquez, 48, had been working for 27 hours before the Jan. 27, 2014, crash that killed Vincent Petrella and left Trooper Douglas Balder seriously injured on the Reagan Memorial Tollway near Eola Road in Aurora, prosecutors said.

Petrella and Balder had stopped to help a disabled vehicle in the eastbound lanes of the Reagan. They were in the right-hand lane and shoulder, with their vehicles’ emergency lights activated, officials said.

Velasquez, who was also traveling eastbound, collided with the vehicles about 9:45 p.m., police said at the time.

Petrella, a husband and father of two young children, died at the scene, according to tollway officials. The 39-year-old Chicago native had worked at the tollway since 2001.

On Feb. 26, Judge Robert Kleeman found Velasquez guilty of one count of operating a commercial vehicle in a fatigued state, and two counts of failure to comply with hours of service requirements, according to the DuPage County state’s attorney’s office. He was also convicted of driving too fast for conditions and failing to yield to emergency vehicles.

Kleeman handed down the three-year sentence at a hearing Monday at the Wheaton courthouse.

“Illinois law imposes rules and regulations on the trucking industry for a reason — to keep the roads safe for all motorists,” State’s Attorney Robert Berlin said in a statement.

“Ignoring these regulations, however, can result in tragic consequences, as we saw in this case. Had Mr. Velasquez gotten the proper amount of rest before getting behind the wheel of his truck, Mr. Petrella would be alive today and Trooper Balder would not be facing a life of pain and suffering,” Berlin said.

Velasquez, of Hanover Park, must serve 50 percent of his sentence before he is eligible for parole, officials said.