Driver held on $1 million bond in I-55 crash that killed 4 - | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Driver held on $1 million bond in I-55 crash that killed 4

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Francisco Espinal Quiroz Francisco Espinal Quiroz
JOLIET, Ill. (Sun-Times Media Wire) - The driver of a semi-truck involved in a crash on Interstate 55 Monday that killed four people, including an 11-year-old girl, is being held on $1 million bond.

Francisco Espinal Quiroz, 51, of Leesburg, Indiana, appeared in Will County bond court on Tuesday afternoon. He is charged with felonies for false reporting of driving records and failure to maintain record of duty status. He also was cited for failure to reduce speed to prevent an accident.

Assistant State’s Attorney James Long said the investigation is still ongoing and other charges, including reckless homicide, are possible.

Two fatal crashes occurred just minutes apart Monday afternoon on Interstate 55 near Channahon, Illinois State Police said.

The semitrailer was speeding northbound into a construction zone on I-55 near Arsenal Road when it abruptly changed lanes, causing a chain-reaction crash involving two cars and a van and killing four people, according to state police.

The Will County Coroner’s office identified the dead as: Piper Britton, 11, and Kimberly K. Britton, 43, both of Urbana; Vicky L. Palacios, 54, of Coal City; and Urlike P. Blopleh 48, of Channahon.

All four were pronounced dead at the scene, the coroner’s office said.

State police Cmdr. Randy Ness said the three vehicles involved in the initial crash were a Kia, in which the driver and a passenger were killed; a Chevrolet van with four occupants in which a front passenger died; and a Dodge Challenger in which one person was killed.

Sixteen minutes after the first crash, a rear-end collision occurred in the southbound lanes at U.S. 6, involving two semitrailers. Both drivers were taken to a hospital with what appeared at first to be minor injuries, police said. However, one driver later died from what police believe might be a medical condition.

He was identified as Deividas Mockus, 41, of Darien, according to the coroner’s office. He was pronounced dead at Presence St. Joseph Health in Joliet at 4:29 p.m.

In court Tuesday, Quiroz communicated with the judge through an interpreter. He was read the charged pending against him, and acknowledged them, but did not make a further statement.

Prosecutors say he was on the road for more than 12 hours, and Illinois law caps the number of permissible hours a driver can be on the road at 11 hours.

Will County State’s Attorney’s office spokesman Chuck Pelkie said there was no indication the two crashes were related.

Illinois State Police spokesman Monique Bond said authorities have had an “extensive safety initiative” in place for the past six months, “Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow” in cooperating with the Illinois Truckers Association “because we are aware of so many fatalities involving commercial motor vehicles” in general.

They are trying to raise awareness about the importance of driving with adequate rest. Those who are fatigued are more apt to speed or be distracted.

For two years, they also have “aggressively” tried to raise awareness about speeding in a construction zone but “whether or not the trucking industry is getting the message, I don’t know.”

Bond noted the driver allegedly was speeding in construction zone. He was in the left lane, speeding past cars that had slowed down in the right lane as they approached the construction area, where the lanes go from two to one and then tried to cut back over into the right lane when his lane ended, she said.

“We see it all the time, where people in the left lane lane keep going and do not want to wait, until they get to the very end and pull over into the right lane.”

Two ISP troopers have also been killed in such circumstances, she said.

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