Mourners gathered Monday to pay respects to an Illinois state trooper who was killed last week in a crash on Interstate 294.
Visitation for James Sauter began at 3 p.m. Monday at Moraine Valley Church, at 6300 W. 127th St. in Palos Heights. His funeral begins at the church at 11 a.m. Tuesday.
Trooper Sauter was pulled over on the left shoulder on I-294 south of Willow Road just after 11 p.m. Thursday when he was hit from behind by a semi. Both vehicles burst into flames and 28-year-old Sauter was killed, Illinois State Police Director Hiram Grau confirmed.
Sauter joined the force in June 2008 and he recently returned to patrol after spending several months as a pilot in the Air Operations department.
An autopsy revealed Sauter died of "thermal injuries from a post-crash fire," according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office. He also suffered inhalation and minor closed head injuries. His death was ruled an accident.
"Trooper Sauter represented everything good about the police department," Director Grau said Friday. "Our focus now is to be with the Sauter family every step of the way and to support his fellow officers and colleagues."
The 100 Club of Chicago stepped forward to assist Sauter's family, offering them the first installment of what will eventually be $50,000 in support.
"Trooper Sauter left a legacy of courage, honor and duty and we will never forget Star #6095," Grau said. "Our hearts are heavy with grief, but they are also strengthened by Trooper Sauter’s brave calling and dedicated service to ISP.”