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Driver Charged In I-88 Crash That Killed Tollway Worker

Updated 01/28/14 - 7:38 p.m.

AURORA, Ill. (CBS) – An Illinois Tollway maintenance worker was killed, and an Illinois State Police trooper was injured when a semi-tractor trailer crashed into their vehicles on the Reagan Memorial Tollway near Aurora.

Charges have been filed against the semi-truck driver whose rig struck and killed a Tollway worker and injured an Illinois state trooper on I-88 near Aurora.

Prosecutors say trucker Renato Velasquez, of Hanover Park, was overly fatigued, and had been at the wheel too long -- in violation of federal law.

In addition, state police say, Velasquez is charged with falsifying his log book to make it appear he was behind the wheel legally. Federal law limits truckers to 11 consecutive hours behind the wheel or 11 hours in a 14-hour period.

He faces a laundry list of charges that also includes failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident and failure to yield to a stationary emergency vehicle.

State Police Director Hiram Grau said the condition of the injured trooper, Douglas Balder, has been upgraded to serious and that he is expected to recover.

Balder and tollway worker Vincent Petrella were trying to assist a disabled motorist when Velasquez's rig hit them.

CBS 2's Mike Puccinelli reports, around 9:45 p.m. Monday, Illinois State Trooper Douglas Balder was helping Tollway worker Vincent Petrella work to remove a stalled semi from the tollway, after the truck broke down near Eola Road, when another semi slammed into the vehicles, and they burst into flames. That 18-wheeler partly ran over Balder's squad car, causing an explosive chain-reaction crash.

"The impact of the crash caused all vehicles to become engulfed in flames," Illinois State Police Lt. Bob Meeder said.

Petrella, 39, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Driver Charged In I-88 Crash That Killed Tollway Worker

"We're extremely thankful that he's able to survive. If you see the condition of the vehicle, it's a miracle," said State Police Director Hiram Grau.

Grau said the wreck likely could have been avoided if the truck driver who plowed into the stopped vehicles had followed the law, and pulled over to the left lane when he spotted the flashing lights from the trooper's vehicle.

"If you see those flashing lights, you see emergency workers, you get as far away from them as you possibly can," he said.

Petrella is survived by a wife and two children. He had been working for the Illinois Toll Highway Authority since 2001. He started as a toll collector, and most recently was working as an operator laborer since 2005.

Tollway officials said Petrella was a family man committed to doing his best every day to serve tollway customers.

It was the second time in the past year that an Illinois state trooper's vehicle was struck by a semi while stopped on an Illinois tollway.

In March 2013, Trooper James Sauter was killed when a truck hit his squad car while he was stopped on the shoulder of Interstate 294 near Willow Road. A trucker from Wisconsin was charged with felony violations of truck driver regulations, after allegedly falling asleep at the wheel.

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