Story Timeline
Previous Next
This story has 9 updates

The proceedings were short and attorneys were the only people who spoke, but when it was all over Renato Velasquez had entered a plea of not guilty on all charges.

The truck driver is facing several felonies and misdemeanors for his role in a fiery crash that killed a man and severely injured a state trooper back in January.

Velasquez, who is out on bond, followed his attorney out of the court house and briefly discussed how his client feels about an upcoming trial

Authorities say Velasquez, who is accused of falsifying his driving records and driving while impaired by sleep, had only four hours of sleep during a marathon 36-hour shift behind his big rigs wheel.

That morning in January, State Trooper Douglas Balder had pulled over to the side of I-88 to help out another truck driver, along with worker Vincent Petrell.

Petrell was killed in the accident, and Balder survived with several broken bones and burns.

The captain says Trooper Balder is slowly being brought out of a medically induced coma.

The captain was joined in court today by about a dozen troopers and Balders wife, who will see Velasquez in court again. She and her husband are suing him for negligence and asking for more than a million dollars.

A truck driver from Hanover Park will be arraigned today, on multiple felony charges in the death of an Illinois Tollway employee on I-88.

Police say Renato Velasquez was driving for too long, with too little sleep and with falsified records, when his rig crashed into a tollway vehicle and a state police car that had stopped to help a disabled vehicle.

The crash killed Vincent Petrella, and injured a state trooper.

A truck driver from Hanover Park has been forbidden from driving commercial vehicles for the rest of his life, after being charged in a fatal accident on I-88.

Federal investigators say Renato Velasquez had been driving 38 hours on less than 4 hours sleep on January 27th, when he fell asleep at the wheel, and his truck hit and killed tollway worker Vincent Petrella and injured state trooper Douglas Balder; both men had stopped to help a disabled vehicle.

Federal transportation officials say Velasquez is “an imminent hazard to public safety.”

Trooper Balder is still recovering from his injuries; he filed a lawsuit against Velasquez Monday.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin calls on Thursday for a federal investigation into the fiery crash on I-88 in Aurora that killed a tollway worker and severely injured a state trooper.

Durbin wants the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to see if the truck driver who’s charged with causing the accident, or his employer, broke the law that limits the number of hours a trucker can be behind the wheel.

46 year-old Renato Velasquez works for DND International. He is accused of plowing into officer Douglas Balder’s squad car. Balder’s vehicle then slammed into Vincent Petrella’s tollway truck. Petrella and Balder were pulled over to help another trucker whose rig broke down.

Petrella died, and Balder is being treated for third-degree burns, and broken ribs and shoulders.

Prosecutors say Velasquez was awake for more than 36 hours at the time of the accident.

But, the defense says he didn’t see the emergency lights from the tollway vehicle and squad car because another truck was in the way.

WGN News Writer C. Hayes published this story.

A truck driver’s bond was set at $150,000 this morning for the crash that killed a tollway worker and seriously injured a state trooper.

Renato Velasquez, 46, is being held in the DuPage County jail.

He’s charged with operating a commercial vehicle while fatigued, failing to yield to emergency vehicles, making a false report of record and duty status, driving beyond the 14 hour and 11 hour rules, and failure to reduce speed.

His truck crashed into tollway worker Vincent Petrella and trooper Douglas Balder while they were helping a driver on the right lane and shoulder, of I-88 Monday night.

Petrella was killed and Balder is in critical, but stable condition.

Petrella had a wife, a 7 year old daughter, and a four year old son.

He worked for the tollway since he started as a toll collector 13 years ago.

State police spokeswoman Monique Bond says Petrella’s truck had its flashing arrow on, so drivers were warned to move over.

Weather did not appear to play a role in the accident.

Balder is a Navy reservist who returned from a deployment in Africa in June.

Velasquez and the driver being helped were not injured.

The driver of the semi-truck involved in the crash that killed an Illinois Tollway worker and injured a state trooper has been charged.

According to the DuPage County States Attorney, Renato V. Velasquez of Hanover Park has been charged with Operating a CMV while Impaired/Fatigued, False Report of Record and Duty Status, Driving Beyond the 14 Hour Rule and Driving Beyond the 11 Hour Rule– all of which are class four felonies.

In addition to these charges, Velazquez was charged with Failure to Reduce Speed to Avoid an Accident, and Failure to Yield to Stationary Emergency Vehicles, according to the states attorney’s office.

Velasquez is being transported to the DuPage County Correctional Center where he will await a bond hearing on Wednesday, January 29, 2014.


One man was killed, another listed in critical condition after a fiery crash involving multiple vehicles.

The DuPage County State’s Attorney’s office is instigating to see if the driver responsible for the crash should be charged.

A state trooper who was on the scene Monday night is going to live, but he has burns over 30% of his body. He is the lucky one. Illinois toll worker Vincent Petrella died on I-88, both men were assisting a disabled semi when another semi barreled into them along the side of the road.

39-year-old Vincent Petrella was a funny guy who made everybody laugh– a husband and father of two who loved fishing, his family and his work. His sister tells WGN he died too young as he helped a trucker along I-88 just before 10pm.

Illinois State Trooper Douglas Balder, has been a member of the department for seven years.  He is married and has two children.  He is a naval reserves officer and was recently welcomed home from deployment in 2013.

Balder also was helping on I-88 near Eola Road Monday night. In the subzero temperatures, he was in his car when the semi collided and all the vehicles on the scene burst into flames.

Balder is currently being treated at Loyola university medical center’s burn unit.



An Illinois Tollway worker is killed, and an Illinois State Trooper is critically injured, in a fiery crash on I-88 in Aurora.

39 year-old Vincent Petrella and 38 year-old Trooper Douglas J. Balder both pulled over to help a truck driver whose vehicle broke down when another truck suddenly barreled into all three vehicles. A huge fire erupted.

vincentpetrellaBalder is being treated at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood. He has been with the Illinois state police since 2007. He is married, and has two kids.

“We’re extremely thankful that he’s able to survive. If you see the condition of the vehicle, it’s a miracle. It’s a miracle,” said Hiram Grau of the Illinois State Police.

Petrella worked for the Tollway for 13 years. He was an equipment operator laborer for the Tollway since 2005. He began his career as a toll collector.

He leaves behind a wife, a 7 year-old daughter, and a 4 year-old son.

The driver of the semi that caused the crash was treated, and is being questioned. No charges have been filed.

No information has been released about the driver of the disabled truck.

Gov. Pat Quinn ordered the state’s flags to be flown at half-staff.