Tollway worker killed, trooper seriously injured in I-88 crash - FOX 10 News |

Tollway worker killed, trooper seriously injured in I-88 crash

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(NVP News) (NVP News)
(NVP News) (NVP News)
(NVP News) (NVP News)
AURORA, Ill. (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

An Illinois Tollway employee killed Monday night in a crash on the Reagan Memorial Tollway in Aurora was a hard worker who had been "hustling since he was a little boy," his sister told the Sun-Times on Tuesday.

Maria Petrella said she grew up with her brother, 39-year-old Vincent Petrella, on Taylor Street in the Little Italy neighborhood. That's where she said he got one of his first jobs putting tags on cars at a valet service.

"He's been working all his life, since he was little," Maria Petrella said.

The crash also seriously injured Illinois State Trooper Douglas Balder, a 38-year-old who has been on the force since 2007, according to a state police news release. Balder remained in serious condition Tuesday afternoon but was expected to recover, the release said.

ISP spokeswoman Monique Bond said the truck driver that hit the men was in custody and was being questioned. She said she did not expect charges to be filed Tuesday, though. She said the investigation into the crash is ongoing.

Vincent Petrella began his career at the tollway in 2001 as a toll collector, and he became an equipment operator laborer in 2005, according to a written statement from the tollway.

"Vincent was a hard-working family man and father of two who was committed to doing his best each day to serve our customers on the tollway," Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said in the statement.

Maria Petrella 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.

She said she learned of the crash after 11 p.m. Monday, and she didn't know how to tell her parents.

"They're staying strong," Maria Petrella said.

Gov. Pat Quinn issued a statement calling Petrella a "hero" and a "selfless man." He said he has ordered the state's flags to be flown at half-staff in Petrella's honor, and he offered his wishes for the trooper's full recovery.

Balder was helping Petrella with a semitrailer truck that had broken down about 9:45 p.m. Monday near Eola Road, authorities said. Bond said they were on the eastbound side of the road, in the right-hand lane and shoulder, with lights on the trooper's squad car activated.

Bond said they were hit by another semi and were engulfed in flames.

Petrella was pronounced dead at the scene, and Balder was taken in serious condition to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, officials said.

Last March, Illinois State Trooper James Sauter was killed while parked on the left-hand shoulder of southbound Interstate 294 in the northwest suburbs when a Wisconsin truck driver allegedly fell asleep behind the wheel, veered off the road and crashed into the rear of Sauter's squad car.

That truck driver, Andrew Bokelman, faces criminal charges and has been sued by Sauter's widow.

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