Renato Velasquez charged in fatal I-88 crash | Tollway worker Vincent Petrella killed, state trooper Douglas Balder hurt

The trucker accused of causing the crash that killed an Illinois Tollway worker and critically injured a state trooper has been charged.
January 29, 2014 8:50:12 AM PST
Temperatures were well below zero Monday night when a truck crashed into a police car and another truck on the interstate in the western suburbs. The trucker accused of causing the crash that killed an Illinois Tollway worker and critically injured a state trooper has been charged.

On Tuesday night, flags at state buildings were ordered lowered in honor of 39-year-old Vincent Petrella. He grew up on this block in Little Italy, a neighborhood fixture known for his hard work and helping hand.

"He was very thoughtful and respectful, everybody around him. Always said hello, always showed compassion for people," said Barry Dalesandro, family friend.

Authorities say Petrella, who worked for the tollway, was killed while helping a stranded semi-driver on the shoulder of I-88.

Also there was state trooper Douglas Balder. His police lights were flashing, say officials, when another truck driver, 46-year-old Renato Velasquez, slammed into the stopped vehicles which then burst into flames.

Petrella died at the scene, but Balder managed to crawl from his burning car.

"He is expected to make it, but right now he does have some extensive injuries," said Hiram Grau, director, Illinois State Police.

On Tuesday night, Velasquez was charged with four felonies related to driving while fatigued and beyond his approved hours.

Motorist Paul Anzell says he witnessed the crash and believes Velasquez was driving behind another semi in the lane closest to the shoulder.

"The first truck did get off that lane. The second truck, he never moved. He just kept going straight, no tail lights went on, no brake lights. He just went right into it, and everything exploded," said Anzell.

Balder, a Navy reservist, had recently rejoined state police after a third mobilization. These photos taken last summer in Oswego at his welcome home celebration.

Petrella had worked 13 years for the tollway and leaves behind a wife and two young children.

"We lost a good friend, a good family man," said Dalesandro.

I-Team: Trucking company records reveal past fatal accident

Safety records reveal a pattern of problems for the trucking company involved in Monday night's fatal crash.

The owner of the Naperville trucking firm DND International spent Tuesday afternoon with federal motor carrier inspectors and Illinois State Police. This isn't the first deadly accident that a DND truck has been involved in.

Law enforcement and truck safety records reveal a DND truck in a fatal accident on I-55 in Sangamon County in August of 2012. The driver of the other truck died, but DND's owner says that one wasn't her driver's fault.

Owner Natasha Dimitrievski says the driver involved in Monday night's crash was a contractor, not a company employee. She declined to name that independent owner-operator.

"I'm so very sorry. I am truly sorry, and I don't know what to say anymore," Dimitrievski said. "You can't be in the truck with the drivers so as much as we can do we control them. But I'm not there in there so I don't know what they do. Only thing I know, my drivers logs that I receive. It's all good."

DND has 42 trucks in its fleet. Federal safety records reveal six crashes the past two years and a host of safety violations: not-compliant driver work records and moving violations-mostly for speeding. And industry records reveal the firm has been dropped by insurance companies six times in the past six years.

Every year, Illinois State Police issue hundreds of violations to motorists for not getting out of the way of emergency vehicles. After what happened Monday night, authorities say it reinforces the need to follow what is known as Scott's Law, honoring a Chicago firefighter who was struck and killed as he assisted on a crash in 2000.

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