Trial date set for truck driver in I-88 crash

A Hanover Park truck driver accused of causing a January crash along I-88 that killed Wheeling tollway worker Vincent Petrella and seriously injured a state trooper, will stand trial Feb. 24.

Renato Velasquez, 46, is charged with operating a commercial motor vehicle while fatigued or impaired 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.

Assistant State's Attorney Joe Ruggiero, who is chief of the office's criminal division, told Judge Robert Kleeman Thursday that plea negotiations have been "fruitless."

If convicted, Velasquez faces a maximum of one to three years in prison.

About 9:30 p.m. Jan. 27, Illinois State Police Trooper Doug Balder and Petrella were helping with a disabled semitrailer truck on eastbound I-88 near Eola Road in Aurora 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.

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. Velasquez, who is free on $150,000 bail, is next due in court Jan. 27.

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