Trucker charged in fatal crash pleads innocent

The truck driver accused of causing the January crash along I-88 that killed Wheeling tollway worker Vincent Petrella and seriously injured a state trooper pleaded innocent on Monday.

Renato V. Velasquez, 46, of Hanover Park, is facing multiple felony charges, including operating a commercial motor vehicle while fatigued or impaired, driving beyond the 14-hour rule and the 11-hour rule, and making a false report of record and duty status.

In addition, he's charged with failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident and failure to yield to stationary emergency vehicles.

Prosecutors say Velasquez had slept for only 3½ hours during a 37½-hour shift in which he traveled through Illinois, Nebraska and Iowa before returning to the Chicago area.

About 9:30 p.m. on Jan. 27, Petrella and trooper Douglas J. Balder of Oswego were helping with a disabled semitrailer truck along eastbound I-88 near Eola Road when their vehicles were struck by a truck driven by Velasquez.

When the crash occurred, both Petrella and Balder were sitting inside their parked vehicles, which had flashing emergency lights.

Petrella was killed in the crash. Balder suffered third-degree burns to 15 percent of his body, bleeding on the brain, two broken shoulders and broken ribs. Velasquez's next court appearance is scheduled for April 14.

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Renato V. Velasquez
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