Durbin calls for investigation of fatal crash
Sun-Times Media January 30, 2014 3:50PM
Crash on I88 in Aurora January 27, 2014 that killed Tollway worker Vincent Petrella. Driver Renato V. Velasquez was charged. | NVP
Updated: March 3, 2014 5:00PM
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) called on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on Thursday to “immediately and fully” investigate the deadly crash on Interstate 88 in Aurora that claimed the life of a tollway worker and seriously hospitalized an Illinois State Police trooper.
Durbin asked the agency to determine if the driver or his employer, DND International of Naperville, violated rules limiting the number of hours a driver can be on the road and to take steps to ensure that every trucking company is complying with the law.
“The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has the authority and the responsibility to investigate incidents like the one this week in Illinois and I urge you to quickly and fully investigate this accident,” Durbin said in a letter.
The driver, Renato V. Velasquez, 46, of Hanover Park, was arrested in connection with the crash. He 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.
Velasquez was also charged with failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident and failure to yield to stationary emergency vehicles, state police said.
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.
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 Interstate 88, when a second semi hit them and engulfed them in flames.
Petrella was killed. Prosecutors said Balder suffered broken ribs, a broken shoulder and third-degree burns over 15 percent of his body. He was in his car at the time of the crash, and was able to climb to safety.
Steven Goldman, Velasquez’s attorney, denied the trucker was sleepy behind the wheel despite working 37 hours straight before the crash.
Goldman expected Velasquez to post the required amount of his $150,000 bond to be released from jail. He will next appear in court Feb. 5 at the Wheaton courthouse.
Also on Thursday, Balder’s wife issued a public statement offering her thanks for all the prayers and best wishes concerning her husband in the hospital.
She also wanted to send a message of sympathy and condolence to the family of Petrella.
“Words cannot express the outpouring of support, care and genuine concern that our family has received for Doug’s recovery,” she said. “My husband is fighting for his life, and I know that there are few words that can comfort the grief of the Petrella family’s loss. Please know that your family has the sympathy and support from all of us, and may God embrace Vincent’s soul.”