Trucker held on $150,000 bond in Aurora crash that killed worker
BY BRIAN SLODYSKO AND JON SEIDEL Staff Reporters January 29, 2014 9:30AM
Renato V. Velasquez, 46, of Hanover Park, was charged in the fiery crash on Interstate 88, near Aurora, Monday night that killed a tollway worker and injured a state trooper. | mughot provided by Illinois State Police
Updated: January 29, 2014 11:06AM
A truck driver who allegedly worked 37 hours straight before a fiery crash that killed an Illinois Tollway worker and critically injured a state trooper was ordered held on $150,000 bond Wednesday morning.
Renato V. Velasquez, 46, faces charges of operating a commercial motor vehicle while impaired or fatigued, making a false report of record and duty status, and driving beyond the 14- and 11-hour rules, all felonies.
Steve Goldman, Velasquez’s attorney, said his client’s blood-alcohol test indicated the trucker was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash that killed Vincent Petrella and seriously wounded Trooper Douglas J. Balder.
However, DuPage County prosecutors alleged in court that Velasquez had been working for 37 straight hours before the crash.
“That’s what’s alleged. I don’t know if that’s true,” said attorney Steve Goldman, who described Velasquez as a “loving father and a loving husband.”
“He’s devastated. He’s devastated this happened,” Goldman said of his client. “It was an unfortunate and tragic accident.”
Police said Velasquez works for DND International Inc. of Naperville. Calls to the company seeking comment were eventually disconnected Wednesday morning, and other representatives did not immediately respond to messages.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration records show random inspections of DND International’s drivers in the last two years ended with the driver being placed out of service 9.7 percent of the time. The national average is 5.51 percent.
Meanwhile, the company’s vehicles were placed out of service after random inspections 20.2 percent of the time, on par with the national average of 20.72 percent.
The FMCSA records show DND International had a “satisfactory” rating as of July 2011.
Petrella became the first Illinois Tollway employee since 2003 to be killed on the job in the crash.
Balder, 38, was helping Petrella, 39, with a broken-down semitrailer truck about 9:45 p.m. Monday in the right-hand lane and shoulder, on the eastbound side of Interstate 88, according to authorities.
That’s when a second semi crashed into them, said State Police spokeswoman Monique Bond. Balder was taken to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, officials said. Petrella was pronounced dead at the scene, and prosecutors said Balder suffered third-degree burns over 15 percent of his body.
A 13-year veteran of the tollway who began his career there as a toll collector in 2001, Petrella became an equipment operator laborer in 2005. Among his responsibilities was to work with State Police and other emergency personnel to deal with incidents on the highway, tollway spokeswoman Wendy Abrams said.
She said Petrella is the first tollway employee to be killed on the job since Paul Liotine, of West Chicago, was hit by a truck in September 2003 while replacing plastic reflectors.
Bond said the lights on Balder’s squad car were activated Monday.
Petrella’s sister, Maria, said she grew up with her brother on Taylor Street in Chicago’s Little Italy neighborhood. That’s where she said he got one of his first jobs putting tags on cars at a valet service. She said her brother moved to northwest suburban Wheeling about seven years ago and lived there with his wife and two children: a 7-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy.
Heidi Miller, Balder’s former sister-in-law, said Balder and his wife “are amazing people” who kept in touch with her son for years.
Navy records show Balder served in Africa from October 2012 until June 2013.
“He’s a remarkable man,” Miller said.