Trucker Charged In Connection With I-55 Crashes That Killed 5
Updated 07/22/14 – 12:22 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — A 51-year-old truck driver has been charged with speeding just before a deadly crash on Interstate 55 near Channahon on Monday; one of two wrecks that killed five people on I-55.
The first crash happened in the northbound lanes of Interstate 55 near Arsenal Road around 2:30 p.m.
Illinois State Police said a semi-trailer truck was speeding and abruptly changed lanes in a construction zone, causing a chain reaction crash. State police said the semi was heading toward stopped cars at a construction zone and failed to stop.
“The three vehicles that were struck by the semi-truck tractor trailer were stopped in traffic, along with other vehicles in front, and the truck driver that was at the rear was passing other vehicles in the left lane, and abruptly made a lane change to the right, and then struck the rear of the vehicles pushing them all together into the crash,” State Police Cmdr. Randy Ness said.
The truck crushed two cars and a van, killing three women and an 11-year-old girl. It took crews four hours to separate the vehicles involved in the crash.
The Will County Coroner’s office has identified the victims who died as 48-year-old Ulrike P. Blopleh, of Channahon; 54-year-old Vicky L. Palacios, of Coal City; and 43-year-old Kimberly K. Britton and 11-year-old Piper Britton, both of Urbana.
In addition, three people were seriously injured and rushed to the hospital, police said.
Blopeh’s husband said she was driving on I-55 with three of their four children, including their son, Andre, who was airlifted to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood after the wreck.
“She was the home. The whole home, the whole family revolved around her. She was a great mother. She was a very dedicated servant of Jehovah. She volunteered her time in the ministry. She also volunteered her time building our places of worship,” said Steve Flynn, an elder at the Willimington Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the family’s church.
Nicole Palacios said mother was living alone after her children all had grown up and moved out. She said her mother was driving to work at the time of the crash, even though it was her day off.
The trucker – Francisco Espinal-Quiroz, of Leesburg, Indiana – was charged with keeping a false log book and willfully entering false information, police said. He was due for a bond hearing Tuesday morning in Will County. He also was cited for failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident.
Espinal-Quiroz also underwent blood and urine testing to check for drugs or alcohol, although results of those tests were not immediately available.
Several minutes after that crash, two semi-trailer trucks collided in the southbound lanes about three miles away. Both drivers were taken to the hospital, where one later died, apparently from a medical condition.
He was identified as 41-year-old Deividas Mockus, of Darien.