Illinois State Police are mourning the loss of a fellow trooper who lost his life early Friday morning when a semitrailer truck slammed into his car on the Tri-State Tollway.
On duty at the time, James Sauter, 28, of Vernon Hills had just helped a driver on I-94 and was about five miles south of there on I-294 just south of Willow Road near Northbrook when his vehicle was struck from behind by a United Van Lines truck.
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"We lost a wonderful person, a wonderful human being and certainly a wonderful human police officer," said Illinois State Police Director Hiram Grau.
Visitation for Sauter will be held from 3 to 9 p.m. on Monday, April 1, at Moraine Valley Church, 6300 W. 127th Street in Palos Heights. Funeral services will also be held at the church starting at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, April 2. Interment will be private. The announcement Saturday by the funeral home handling services corrects earlier information that visitation would be at the funeral home.
Sauter is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, his parents and a younger brother.
Bond said Sauter is the second state trooper to be killed in the line of duty in the last five months. Trooper Kyle Deatherage was also struck by a semi truck in November while conducting a traffic stop on I-55 near Collinsville. He was 32.
"This is uniquely very close (deaths) for Illinois State Police," Bond said.
Sauter was pronounced dead at the scene at 2:12 a.m., authorities said. He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, and family.
"Our family here at the Illinois State Police is grieving," Grau said.
The details of the crash are still unclear, as is the speed the truck was going when it hit the trooper's car.
State police were uncertain as to why Sauter had stopped on the inside shoulder, though that's not uncommon, or whether his emergency flashers were on.
"He may have gotten communications over the radio or maybe was doing a report. I don't know that yet," Grau said.
The car and truck both burst into flames after the impact, according to reports.
Illinois State Police spokeswoman Monique Bond said after the crash, dozens of police officers and firefighters from numerous agencies participated in a traditional procession to the morgue, where they did an honorary salute and stood at attention.
"It's something breathtaking to see actually," Bond said. "You would never imagine in the middle of the night to see just dozens and dozens of officers standing at attention. It's a moment of silence and a moment of honor and respect."
At Sauter's home in Vernon Hills on Friday, state police politely turned away reporters at the door, saying it was a "no media zone."
Lt. Mark Karczewski, Sauter's supervisor and fishing buddy, described him as an "impeccable trooper."
Inspired to pursue a career in law enforcement by his aunt, a retired state police lieutenant colonel, Sauter joined the state police in 2008 after graduating from Lewis University in Romeoville. He had just completed a temporary assignment in Air Operations and had been reassigned to District 15 as a patrolman.
"He was exactly what you want a police officer or a trooper to be," said District 15 Capt. Joe Perez.
Grau offered condolences to Sauter's family on behalf of his fellow officers.
"Trooper Sauter left a legacy of courage, honor and duty and we will never forget Star #6095," he said.
Gov. Pat Quinn praised the trooper's "bravery and commitment to public safety," adding that the state is safer for Sauter's efforts.
"Trooper Sauter's untimely passing is a tragic reminder of the dangers our sworn officers face every day in the line of duty," Quinn said in a prepared statement.
While still a cadet, Sauter saved a life.
In October 2008 after coming across a motorcycle on its side on eastbound Interstate 80. Sauter, according to reports, crossed over the lanes of traffic to assist a woman face down in a pool of blood. He cleared blood from the woman's airway, and she survived, officials said.
He received a Lifesaving Medal for the rescue.
The driver of the truck is being questioned and tested by state police, said officials who did not release the driver's name. Grau indicated the truck was in the left lane, which is prohibited. Witnesses also are being interviewed.
Bond said Saturday no further details on the crash were available, as the cause is still under investigation.
United Van Lines issued a statement saying the company is cooperating fully with the investigation and declining any further comment.
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of Trooper Sauter," said Carl Walter, United's vice president of marketing communications via email.
Sauter's family will receive $50,000 in financial assistance from the 100 Club of Chicago, a civilian organization that provides for the families of police officers, firefighters and paramedics killed in the line of duty. They got the first installment Friday, of $15,000.
• Daily Herald wire services and ABC 7 contributed to this report.
Killed: Trooper honored for saving a life while a cadet