Wisconsin Trucker Charged In Crash That Killed State Trooper
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UPDATED: 11/13/2013 11:15 a.m.
SKOKIE, Ill. (CBS) – A truck driver from Wisconsin appeared in court on Wednesday to face felony charges in a fiery crash that killed Illinois State Police Trooper James Sauter in March.
Illinois State Police spokeswoman Monique Bond said 26-year-old Andrew Bokelman was charged with felony violations of truck driver regulations, after allegedly falling asleep of the wheel of his truck on March 28.
Bond was set at $125,000 at the court hearing on Wednesday morning.
Bokelman allegedly violated rules prohibiting truckers from driving while fatigued, driving after a 14-consecutive-hour work period without taking 10 consecutive hours off, and falsifying work logs.
He had previously been issued a traffic ticket for improper lane usage after the crash, but that citation was dismissed April 15.
“No fine or jail time can begin to replace the courage and honor of this exceptional Trooper, son, and husband. The men and women of the Illinois State Police will never forget James’ unselfish sacrifice and his service to this agency and we will always honor his legacy,” said Illinois State Police Director Hiram Grau.
Dozens of state troopers were at the Skokie Courthouse for Bokelman’s court appearance on Wednesday. He surrendered to police custody at the Illinois State Police facility in Park Ridge early Wednesday.
“We’ve been cooperating with investigation,” said defense attorney David Studenroth. “As you heard, he attempted to extract Sauter, but was unable to do so because of flames.”
Sauter’s patrol car was parked on the left shoulder of the Tri-State Tollway (I-294) near Willow Road at the time of the late night crash.
Sauter, who joined the state police in 2008, had been helping a motorist on Interstate 94 before he returned to patrol duties on the tollway.
When Bokelman’s semi slammed into the back of Sauter’s squad car, it sparked a fire.
The cruiser and the cab of the truck were severely damaged and burst into flames as a result of the crash.
Sauter, of Vernon Hills, was pronounced dead at the scene about three hours after the crash.
Bokelman, of Lomira, Wis., suffered a burn to his hand, but otherwise was not seriously hurt.
Sauter had previously worked as a pilot for the ISP Air Ops unit for a couple months, but decided to return to patrol duties.
In October 2008, while still a cadet, Sauter received the department’s Lifesaving Medal, after running to the aid of a woman who had been in a motorcycle accident on Interstate 80. He grabbed his first responder bag and tended to a woman who was face down in a pool of blood. He helped clear blood from her airway before she was airlifted to a nearby hospital.
“Trooper Sauter was a very talented, wonderful police officer,” Grau said the morning after the crash. “As you can imagine, his fellow troopers, his fellow officers are devastated.”