Trucker Pleads Not Guilty in Fatal I-55 Chain Reaction Crash

Reckless homicide charges are still pending against Francisco Espinal-Quiroz

The trucker blamed for a fatal crash which claimed five lives on I-55 pleaded not guilty Tuesday in a Will County Courtroom.

Reckless homicide charges are still pending against Francisco Espinal-Quiroz, who so far faces charges of falsifying his logbooks and failure to maintain proper records.

For the last three weeks, Espinal-Quiroz has been held on $1 million bond. Prosecutors say they are still awaiting reports from the Illinois State Police, including reconstruction studies on the accident, before deciding how to proceed.

“Our sincere condolences go out to the friends and family who lost loved ones in this tragic accident,” said the trucker’s attorney, Sarah Toney. “The investigation is still ongoing on both sides.”

Toward that end, Espinal-Quiroz’s lawyers filed a motion Tuesday asking that all devices and evidence be preserved.

“Sometimes it’s common practice that in testing it’s consumed,” Tony said. “We just asked that we have notice before it’s consumed.”

The accident occurred July 21, as Espinal-Quiroz was headed northbound on I-55 near Arsenal Road. The area has been the site of massive backups, off and on, for the last two years, due to bridge reconstruction over the Des Plaines River. The trucker collided with the victims as he was changing lanes in the construction zone.

Residents of the area got some good news Tuesday, as IDOT revealed that the bridge reconstruction is just about over.

“They’re looking at wrapping up the construction of the northbound bridge, and they’re going to start looking at opening up the northbound lanes next week,” State Representative Larry Walsh Jr. said. “The plan is to have everything open and operational by Labor Day.”

The Police Chief of Elwood, Fred Hayes, hailed that news, but said more needs to be done. Hayes has been a frequent critic of traffic in the adjacent intermodal facility which handles hundreds of semi-trailer trucks.

“It will help relieve congestion on the interstate,” Hayes said in a statement. “However, much more is needed to reduce the number of big rigs and improve safety along Route 53, so area residents’ lives are not continually placed at risk, funeral processions to the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery are not regularly interrupted by truck traffic, and the state’s most dangerous rail crossing is made safe.”

Will County authorities say they believe much of the truck traffic can be blamed on drivers attempting alternate routes around the bridge-zone congestion. As the barriers are taken down, they said Tuesday they believe much of the local congestion around the truck terminal will be alleviated.

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