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Local

Charges upgraded for trucker accused in I-55 fatal crash

JOLIET – The truck driver in the Interstate 55 crash that led to five deaths driver now faces more than a dozen charges of reckless homicide.

Francisco Espinal-Quiroz, of Leesburg, Indiana, was indicted Wednesday morning on 15 counts of reckless homicide. The indictments became public after they were returned Thursday morning.

Espinal-Quiroz is accused of causing the multi-vehicle collision July 21 that led to the deaths of five people, including one child. The collision happened on I-55 in Channahon Township, in the construction zone around the Des Plaines River bridge.

The indictments from the Will County State's Attorney's office allege that Espinal-Quiroz was speeding through a construction zone; that he failed to keep a proper lookout for vehicles stopping or slowing in a construction zone; that he failed to decrease his speed when a special hazard existed; and that he had physical conditions that limited his ability to drive safely.

One of those physical conditions is a complete loss of vision in his right eye due to a 1984 injury.
Reckless homicide is a Class 2 Felony. The defendant could face between six and 28 years in prison if convicted. Espinal-Quiroz was previously indicted for falsifying his logbook and not maintaining the logbook accurately. Both are Class 4 Felonies.

Earlier this month, Espinal-Quiroz formally entered a not guilty plea for the earlier charges during an appearance at the Will County Courthouse.

Prosecutors at the time said they would consider additional charges.

Espinal-Quiroz's attorney, Nicole Sartori, declined to comment Thursday, saying she had not seen the indictments.

Police also cited Espinal-Quiroz the day of the accident for failing to reduce speed to avoid an accident. Espinal-Quiroz has a history of traffic violations that date back to 1991 and include three speeding tickets since 2012.

He is being held in lieu of a $1 million bond. His next court appearance is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Sept. 9.

Those who died on the day of the first collision were Kimberly K. Britton, 43, and Piper Britton, 11, of Urbana; Vicky L. Palaciocs, 54, of Coal City; and Ulrike P. Blopleh, 48, of Channahon. Timothy Osburn, 64, of Urbana, also was involved in the first collision and was pronounced dead Aug. 6.

Two lawsuits have been filed against the driver. Joshua Johnke filed a wrongful death lawsuit earlier this month in Cook County Circuit Court on behalf of his mother, Vicky L. Palacios, 54, who was among the five killed in the July 21 crash.

A second lawsuit was filed Thursday in Will County Circuit Court by Moses Blopleh, the husband of Ulrike Blopleh.

ALLEGATIONS IN THE RECKLESS HOMICIDE INDICTMENT
• Speeding through a construction zone
• Failing to keep a proper lookout for vehicles stopping or slowing in a construction zone
• Failing to decrease speed when a special hazard existed
• Having physical conditions that limited the ability to drive safely

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