A tollway worker from Wheeling died and an Illinois State trooper was hospitalized Monday night after a fiery crash along Interstate 88.
The trooper and the maintenance worker were helping a disabled semitrailer truck about 9:45 p.m. in the eastbound lanes of I-88 near Eola Road in Aurora when another semitrailer truck barreled into them, said Monique Bond, a spokeswoman for the Illinois State Police. District 15 State Trooper Douglas J. Balder, 38, was listed this morning in critical condition, but is conscious and expected to recover, Bond said. Balder has been a state trooper since 2007, according to statement today from State Police Director Hiram Grau.
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Tollway officials identified the maintenance worker as 39-year-old Vincent Petrella, an equipment operator laborer since 2005 who started his career as a toll collector in 2001.
Petrella's sister, Maria Petrella of Chicago, called her brother a "good person, hard working and a loving father and husband." He and his wife, Sandra, have two children, she said.
Gov. Pat Quinn ordered the state's flags to fly at half staff to remind citizens of Petrella's life of service and sacrifice.
"Vincent Petrella is a hero," Quinn said in a written statement Tuesday morning. "Both he and the injured state trooper were doing heroic work -- assisting their fellow citizens in an emergency. Both men were committed to keeping our roads safe and to helping those in need.
"Vincent was a selfless man, dedicated to his family and his job," the governor continued. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends and fellow employees during this difficult time."
Bond said the truck driver involved in the crash is in custody, but no charges had been filed as of 9 a.m. The crash investigation continues, she added.
"On behalf of the men and women of the Illinois State Police, I offer condolences to Vincent Petrella's family and to the entire Illinois Tollway," Grau said. "It is also with deep sadness that we offer our support and deepest sympathies to the family of Trooper Douglas Balder, who remains in serious condition and is expected to recover. These first responders are dedicated to service and risk their lives every day to keep citizens and roads safe."
Petrella was among the tollway's maintenance workers who are on the roadways to serve customers across the 286-mile system.
"Vincent was a hardworking, family man and father of two who was committed to doing his best each day to serve our customers on the Tollway," Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said. "On behalf of the Tollway Board and the entire Illinois Tollway, we are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of one of our own.
"They plow snow, maintain our roadways and, most importantly, are the first on the scene to help drivers in need," Lafleur added.
The crash shut down all eastbound lanes of I-88 near Eola and one westbound lane while Aurora firefighters and other emergency responders worked to clear the scene. Firefighters remained at the accident site near mile post 122 for more than two hours.
Grau also reminded drivers of Scott's Law, a measure passed in 2002 in honor of Scott Gillen of the Chicago Fire Department, who was struck and killed by a
drunken driver while assisting at a crash on a busy Chicago expressway. The law states that when approaching a stationary emergency vehicle using visual
signals, drivers must yield, change to a lane away from the emergency vehicle, and proceed with caution. If a lane change is not possible, drivers should reduce speed and proceed with caution.