Driver charged in Will County crash that killed 4

Originally Posted Online: July 22, 2014, 9:40 am
Last Updated: July 23, 2014, 8:26 am
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JOLIET, Ill. (AP) — A semi-truck driver involved in crash that killed four people southwest of Chicago was driving too fast and falsified entries in a logbook tracking the number of hours he spent behind the wheel, authorities said Tuesday.

Investigators believe the semi-truck was speeding on Interstate 55 near Channahon when it struck several vehicles stopped in a construction zone, state police Cmdr. Randy Ness told reporters after Monday's crash. Francisco Espinal Quiroz, 51, of Leesburg, Indiana, was charged with failure to reduce speed to prevent an accident and willfully making false entries in his logbook.

Quiroz was ordered held in lieu of $1 million bond during a hearing in Will County Circuit Court.

The investigation into Quiroz's actions are ongoing, and other charges, including reckless homicide, are possible, Assistant State's Attorney James Long said.

Federal regulators have been tightening rules on work hours for commercial bus and truck operators and are seeking to curtail the practice of logbook tampering to ensure compliance and keep fatigued drivers off the nation's roads.

Investigators have evidence that Quiroz violated rules on working hours and entered incorrect start times in his logbook, said Illinois State Police spokeswoman Monique Bond.

Quiroz was driving at least 15 mph faster than the posted construction zone speed limit at the time of the crash, prosecutors said during the hearing. They said there was no evidence he applied the brakes before the crash.

Investigators determined Quiroz falsified his log books to show he had started driving at 6 a.m. Monday, when he'd actually started driving at 2:30 a.m., and had been on the road approximately 12 hours at the time of the crash, prosecutors said Tuesday.

It wasn't immediately known if Quiroz has an attorney. He works for Espinal Trucking, an owner-operated one-truck company. No other representative of the company could be reached for comment.

The Will County Coroner's Office identified the victims as 54-year-old Vicky Palacios of Coal City, 48-year-old Urlike Blopleh of Channahon, 43-year-old Kimberly Britton of Urbana and 11-year-old Piper Britton of Urbana.

About 15 minutes after the crash, an unrelated accident took place nearby in the southbound lanes involving two semi-trucks. Both drivers were taken to a hospital, where one later died, state police said.

New federal regulations for truck drivers went into effect last summer, including a maximum average work-week of 70 hours instead of 82 hours.

In March, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration proposed that trucks and buses crossing state lines be equipped with electronic devices that record how many hours the vehicles are in operation. That would make it harder for drivers or their employers to alter paper logbooks, regulators say.

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