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Driver appears in court on charges in fatal I-55 crash

Semitrailer driver Francisco Espinal-Quiroz faces charges crash I-55 which four people died. | Will County Sheriff's Office

Semitrailer driver Francisco Espinal-Quiroz faces charges in a crash on I-55 in which four people died. | Will County Sheriff's Office

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Updated: August 24, 2014 6:22AM

JOLIET — The driver of a semitrailer involved in a crash on Interstate 55 Monday that killed four people, including an 11-year-old girl, is being held on $1 million bond.

Francisco Espinal Quiroz, 51, of Leesburg, Ind., appeared in Will County bond court Tuesday afternoon. He is charged with felonies for false reporting of driving records and failure to maintain record of duty status. He also was cited for failure to reduce speed to prevent an accident.

Assistant State’s Attorney James Long said the investigation is still ongoing and other charges, including reckless homicide, are possible.

Two fatal crashes occurred just minutes apart Monday afternoon on I-55 near Channahon, Illinois State Police said.

The semitrailer was speeding northbound into a construction zone on I-55 near Arsenal Road when it abruptly changed lanes, causing a chain-reaction crash involving two cars and a van and killing four people, according to state police.

The Will County Coroner’s office identified the dead as: Piper Britton, 11, and Kimberly K. Britton, 43, both of Urbana; Vicky L. Palacios, 54, of Coal City; and Urlike P. Blopleh 48, of Channahon.

All four were pronounced dead at the scene, the coroner’s office said.

State police Cmdr. Randy Ness said the three vehicles involved in the initial crash were a Kia, in which the driver and a passenger were killed; a Chevrolet van with four occupants in which a front passenger died; and a Dodge Challenger in which one person was killed.

Sixteen minutes after the first crash, a rear-end collision occurred in the southbound lanes at U.S. 6, involving two semitrailers. Both drivers were taken to a hospital with what appeared at first to be minor injuries, police said. However, one driver later died from what police believe might be a medical condition.

He was identified as Deividas Mockus, 41, of Darien, according to the coroner’s office. He was pronounced dead at Presence St. Joseph Health in Joliet at 4:29 p.m.

In court Tuesday, Quiroz communicated with the judge through an interpreter. He was read the charges pending against him, and acknowledged them, but made no further statement.

Prosecutors say he was on the road for more than 12 hours, and Illinois law caps the number of permissible hours a driver can be on the road at 11 hours.

Will County State’s Attorney’s office spokesman Chuck Pelkie said there was no indication the two crashes were related.

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