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Driver charged in I-55 crash that killed 4

Semitrailer driver Francisco Espinal-Quiroz faces charges crash I-55 which four people died. | Will County Sheriff's Office

Semitrailer driver Francisco Espinal-Quiroz faces charges in a crash on I-55 in which four people died. | Will County Sheriff's Office

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Updated: August 23, 2014 6:23AM



(CHANNAHON) A semi-truck driver has been charged in connection with one of two crashes that happened minutes apart on Interstate 55 near southwest suburban Channahon, leaving five people dead--including an 11-year-old girl--and five others injured Monday afternoon.

A semi-truck driver was speeding northbound about 2:15 p.m. 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 three women and a young girl, according to state police.

They were identified as 54-year-old Vicky L. Palacios of Coal City, 48-year-old Urlike P. Blopleh of Channahon, 43-year-old Kimberly K. Britton of Urbana and 11-year-old Piper Britton, also of Urbana, authorities said.

All four were pronounced dead at the scene at 4 p.m., the Will County 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.

In addition, four people were injured, with one airlifted to a hospital, police said. They said the cars and the van were stopped in the construction zone when struck by the semi.

Sixteen minutes after that crash, a rear-end collision occurred in the southbound lanes at U.S. 6, involving two semi trucks and that sent both drivers to the 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.

At a news conference, Ness said police believe the semi in the first crash was speeding in excess of 55 mph through the construction zone based on eyewitness accounts as well as the state police preliminary investigation.

The driver, 51-year-old Francisco Espinal Quiroz of Leesburg, Ind., was charged with felony counts of keeping a false log book and willfully making false entries, according to ISP Sgt. Chris Wilkes. He was also cited for failure to reduce speed to prevent an accident.

He was also taken for mandatory drug and alcohol testing after the crash, Ness said.

Quiroz is being held in the Will County Jail and is expected to appear in bond court later Tuesday, Wilkes said.

I-55 was cleared shortly after 9 p.m. and was expected to be open for rush hour traffic Tuesday, Ness said.

Sun-Times Media Wire;
correspondent Erin Gallagher



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