NTSB Releases Preliminary Report on Fatal Illinois Tollway Crash

NTSB Blames

The NTSB yesterday released its preliminary report on a crash that killed an ISTHA help truck worker.

At approximately 7:45 p.m., on January 27, 2014, 39-year-old Tollway worker Vincent Petrella and trooper Douglas Balder were stopped on the shoulder of I-88, near mile marker 122, helping a truck driver who was parked in the emergency lane.

“An Illinois State Toll Highway Authority (ISTHA) 2010 International single-unit flatbed help truck, along with an Illinois State Police (ISP) 2011 Ford Crown Victoria patrol car stopped behind the Volvo combination vehicle to render assistance and to warn oncoming traffic of the blocked lane,” the NTSB report states.

A tow truck arrived and was parked in front of the disabled truck.

Flashing lights from Balder’s vehicle warned other drivers away.  In addition, “emergency lights on the responding vehicles included an active arrow board on the ISTHA help truck…and flares were placed in the road around the Volvo combination vehicle,” the report states.

At approximately 9:20 p.m., a 2004 Freightliner truck, driven by DND International driver Renato V. Velasquez, 46, was traveling in the right lane of eastbound I-88.  

Velasque’s truck collided with the emergency vehicles from behind. The truck “first collided with the ISP patrol car, pushing it off into the right shoulder and ditch, and then continued forward into the ISTHA help truck, before going off into the right shoulder and ditch itself. During the collision all three steel coils being transported by the Freightliner combination vehicle became detached from the flatbed semitrailer. One of the steel coils made contact with the ISTHA help truck and came to rest in the center lane of I-88.”

The impact of the collision pushed the ISTHA help truck into the back of the disabled vehicle, which then collided with the tow truck.  Sadly, ISTHA help truck worker Vincent Petrella died at the scene.

Balder’s patrol vehicle exploded into flames.  The severely injured trooper managed to crawl from his vehicle.

The tow truck driver and passenger were not injured.

Velasquez suffered minor injuries.

The NTSB says the accident occurred in darkness.- There was no roadway lighting in the immediate area.

Investigators learned that Velasquez had been on duty for 37.5 hours and had only rested for 3.5 hours.

While probing Velasquez’s record, WLS Chicago found that in 2001, Velasquez was convicted of delivering a kilo of cocaine. He served time in prison for the conviction.

WLS reported that at the time of the crash, Velasquez was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

FMCSA investigators found that during a period of 26-hours, Velasquez operated a tractor-trailer for approximately 1,000 miles and only rested 3-1/2 to 5-1/2 hours.

“This heart-breaking and senseless crash has forever changed the lives of many families,” said former FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro said in 2014. “Commercial drivers that knowingly jeopardize innocent lives by violating safety standards and attempt to cover up their illegal behavior should have no doubt that we will vigorously enforce all federal safety regulations to the fullest extent possible by law.”

“According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Safety Measurement System, at the time of the accident, the carrier in operation of the Freightliner combination vehicle, DND International of Naperville, IL, had alerts in 2 of the 5 BASIC categories on which a carrier is measured. An alert indicates to the FMCSA that the carrier exceeds an intervention threshold, and is prioritized for intervention action, based on violations documented during roadside inspections. The alerts for DND International were in the areas of unsafe driving and hours of service compliance. At the time of the accident, the carrier in operation of the Volvo combination vehicle, Michael’s Cartage of Bridgeview, IL, had alerts in 4 of the 5 BASIC categories. The alerts for Michael’s Cartage were in the areas of unsafe driving, hours of service compliance, driver fitness, and vehicle maintenance,” the NTSB report states.

In February 2014, the FMCSA placed the truck driver, Renato V. Velasquez, was placed OOS.

Follow this link to read the entire report.