By Peter Nickeas
AURORA, Ill. — A tollway worker was killed and a state trooper seriously injured in a fiery crash Monday night on Interstate 88 in Aurora, where they had stopped to assist a truck that had broken down, officials said.
Vincent Petrella, 39, a father of two who started as a toll collector in 2001, was pronounced dead on the scene, state police said. The trooper was taken to Loyola University Medical Center, where he was in critical condition this morning, according to state police spokeswoman Monique Bond.
The accident happened around 9:45 p.m. Monday about a quarter-mile east of Eola Road, state police said. A semi had broken down and Petrella pulled over in his truck, a flashing arrow in the back directing traffic away, according to tollway spokeswoman Wendy Abrams. The trooper also stopped to help.
Another semi heading east hit the trooper's car, Petrella truck and the stalled semi in an explosive crash, and they all burst into flames, according to the state police.
State police closed eastbound Interstate 290 while escorting the ambulance. Two dozen Illinois state police cars took part in a procession escorting the injured trooper to the Loyola hospital in Maywood. Two Maywood police vehicles blocked traffic on Roosevelt Road as the procession sped by about 2:10 a.m. Tuesday.
State police director Hiram Grau said the trooper "is expected to make it." He reminded motorists to stay clear of emergency vehicles.
"Scott's Law was passed for a reason," he said at a news conference. "You see those emergency lights, you get away as far as you can."
Scott's Law, also known as the Move Over Law, requires a driver to change lanes, if it is safe to do so, or to reduce speed and proceed with caution when approaching a stopped emergency vehicle displaying flashing warning lights.
The law was named in memory of Chicago Fire Lt. Scott Gillen, who was fatally injured by a drunken driver while working at a crash on the Bishop Ford Freeway in 2000. Gillen, 37, was the father of five children.
Tollway executive director Kristi Lafleur released a statement saying the accident was a reminder of the dangerous conditions tollway workers find themselves in.
"They plow snow, maintain our roadways and, most importantly, are the first on the scene to help drivers in need," she said. "It was during what should have been a routine job that things went horribly wrong.
"Vincent was an equipment operator laborer for the Illinois Tollway since 2005, but began his career as a toll collector," she added.
"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. We extend our deepest sympathies to Mr. Petrella's family and his loved ones during this saddest of times."
There was no information released about the drivers of the two semis.
Last March, a semi crashed into a parked state police car and killed Trooper James Sauter on Interstate 294 near Willow Road. Sauter was stopped on the shoulder when he was hit. A trucker from Wisconsin was charged in his death.
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