It was an emotional beginning to the trial when Officer Douglas Balder had to recall the day. He mentioned that he felt himself “burning alive” when he crawled out of his fiery vehicle – and doesn’t remember anything until he was awoken from his coma six weeks later.
The other survivor, Xhelaj Agron, recalled freeing himself from the crash through his window, but couldn’t see tollway worker Vinvent Petrella through the flames. Petralla died in the crash.
47-year-old Velasquez was driving his truck, filled with 21 tons of steel cable, from Illinois, to Iowa, Nebraska and back to Illinois when he crashed into the men at mile marker 122, near Eola Road on January 27, 2014.
Prosecutors alleged that Velasquez falsified his logbook when he actually only slept 3.5 hours during a 37.5-hour shift. He also failed to brake before the crash, as indicated by the lack of tire marks on the road.
Velasquez is charged with operating a commercial motor vehicle while fatigued or impaired and making a false report of his record and duty status. To that, it’s reported he said, “I cheat all the time, you have to cheat to make money.”
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