An Illinois Tollway employee was killed and an Illinois State Police trooper was seriously injured in a Monday night crash on Interstate 88 -- the Reagan Memorial Tollway -- in the west Chicago suburb of Aurora.
Vincent Petrella, 39, was an equipment operator with the Illinois Tollway since 2005 and began his career as a toll collector, officials said.
He and Illinois State Police Trooper Douglas J. Balder were assisting the driver of a disabled tractor trailer in the eastbound lanes of the interstate at about 9:45 p.m. Monday when they were struck by another tractor trailer.
Flames engulfed all the involved vehicles near Eola Road.
"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," Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said in the statement.
Family friend Bonnie Stolinga said Petrella was like a son to her.
"Look what he was doing. Serving somebody else, helping people. That's what he did for us and his family. He will be so missed," Stolinga said.
Petrella was pronounced dead at the scene and Balder, 38, was hospitalized at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood in serious condition. By midday, Balder was said to be in a medically-induced coma but expected to survive.
Balder is also a father of two who's been a Navy reservist since 1994. He was given a hero's welcome home last summer after returning home to Oswego following his third tour in Africa.
Balder's wife, Kim, arranged the homecoming along with the WelcomeYouHome.org group. Organizer Donna Morsavillo spoke about Balder Tuesday.
"The show of support in the community was just phenomenal. Just the neighbors, family friends who came out to welcome Doug," Morsavillo said.
Monday's crash completely shut down the eastbound lanes of the Reagan Memorial Tollway until about 6 a.m. Tuesday. Gov. Pat Quinn ordered flags throughout the state lowered to half-staff.