Trooper killed by wrong-way driver on I-94 saved a person's life about a week before
A 44-year-old Calumet City man had alcohol in his system as he drove in the wrong direction on Interstate 94 and slammed into Gerald "Jerry" Ellis' Illinois State Police squad car, killing the trooper, authorities said Monday.
Lake County Coroner Howard Cooper could not say how much alcohol Dan Davies had in his system when he struck Ellis head-on while traveling east in the westbound lanes about 3:25 a.m. Saturday near Green Oaks, east of Libertyville. The investigation continues and the coroner's office is awaiting toxicology reports.
Illinois State Trooper Duane Chappell said details about the fatal crash remain under investigation.
At least 60 percent of drivers in fatal wrong-way crashes were impaired by alcohol, the National Transportation Safety Board concluded in a 2012 report. Nationwide, there were 1,239 wrong-way related fatal crashes in 2017 and 1,257 in 2016, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That number was as low as 918 in 2013.
In a statement Monday, family members said Ellis was the person who would lend a helping hand without having to be asked. They called him a loving father and loyal and dedicated husband.
"Jerry will be remembered as the foundation of our family and the community," the statement said. "Through his compassion, devotion, and nurturing abilities, he supported anyone that crossed his path. Each day, he will be remembered as a husband and father who was noble and altruistic."
Ellis, 36, was heading home to Antioch when the crash occurred. He was rushed to Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, where he was pronounced dead, officials said.
Autopsy results showed Davies died from multiple injuries due to the crash.
Ellis, a military veteran, is the third trooper to be killed in a crash this year. He was an 11-year veteran of the state police District 15, which is responsible for patrolling all 294 miles of interstate tollways in northern Illinois.
In addition to being a devoted family man, law enforcement officers remembered Ellis for his strong work ethic and sense of humor.
Lake County sheriff's deputy Kevin Tietz recalled how Ellis and his partner went out of their way to help save the life of an overdose victim more than a week ago.
Tietz said Monday he was called to a domestic dispute at routes 45 and 173. The call went from a domestic dispute to a person driving an overdose victim and changing locations.
At one point, the vehicle was supposed to be at routes 41 and 173 near Zion, but it wasn't there, Tietz said. Ellis and his partner jumped in to help find them.
"When I met with the driver of the vehicle and the overdose victim, Ellis showed up on scene and assisted me in getting the overdose victim out of the vehicle and to the ground."
Working together using Naloxone and a defibrillator, Ellis and Tietz brought the victim back, he said. Rescue workers took the overdose victim to the hospital, Tietz said.
"He and his partner didn't have to respond because it was out of their way and not their call," Tietz said. "But, they still showed up and helped save a life."
Tietz said Ellis was an amazing guy.
"After the call and everything settled, we spoke about random police stuff," Tietz said. "He was a very nice person. I only met him for 45 minutes, but he was smiling the whole time and very positive about life."
Ellis is survived by his wife, Stacy, daughters Kaylee and Zoe, brother Keith and his parents.
Donations to the Ellis family can be made by visiting the Illinois State Police Heritage Foundation website at www.isphf.org/donations and noting Trooper Gerald Ellis Memorial Fund in the comments section.
Donations also can be mailed to the foundation at P.O. Box 8168, Springfield, Illinois, 62791.