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Truck driver fell asleep at the wheel in crash that killed trooper, report

An Illinois State Trooper was killed Thursday night when semi-truck struck his police cruiser Tri-State Tollway Northbrook. Trooper James Sauter

An Illinois State Trooper was killed Thursday night when a semi-truck struck his police cruiser on the Tri-State Tollway in Northbrook. Trooper James Sauter, 28, was on-duty when the semi- truck slammed into his police cruiser in the southbound lanes of I-294 near Willow Road. | Courtesy Network Video Productions

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Updated: May 28, 2013 7:57PM



The truck driver involved in the fiery Tri-State Tollway crash last month that killed an Illinois State Police trooper allegedly fell asleep behind the wheel before the truck he was driving veered out of its lane, according to a report obtained by the Sun-Times.

The white semi-tractor trailer then slammed into a state police cruiser parked on the left shoulder of Interstate 294 near Willow Road in northwest suburban Northfield Township, police have said, killing 28-year-old Trooper James Sauter.

Sauter, of Vernon Hills and survived by his wife Elizabeth, had been a trooper since 2008 and earned a lifesaving medal when he was still a cadet. Troopers from more than 25 states attended his funeral.

The truck driver’s name is not being published because court records show a citation charging improper lane useage was dismissed April 15, and he is not charged with a crime related to the March 28 accident. State Police spokeswoman Monique Bond said a death investigation is ongoing and “we will probably be seeking higher charges.”

Police have confirmed semi-tractor trailers are required by Illinois law to travel in the highway’s two right lanes.

Neither the truck driver nor his family have commented on the crash, despite numerous attempts to reach them.

United Van Lines, the owner of the truck that struck Sauter’s squad car, has said in a statement it is “deeply saddened” by Sauter’s death and is “cooperating fully with the authorities investigating the accident.” A spokesman declined to comment on the crash report.

The report indicates the truck that hit Sauter was traveling south at 11:04 p.m. on I-294 at mile 48.5, while Sauter’s car was parked on the left shoulder.

Police wrote that the truck driver fell asleep, veered left and hit Sauter’s cruiser in the rear, killing Sauter.

A witness said he saw the crash and told investigators the truck was traveling in the left lane. The truck driver suffered minor burns, police have said, and records show he was taken to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge.

Sauter was taken to the Cook County medical examiner’s office while his body was still trapped inside the car. It was towed in procession, and dozens of police officers and state troopers stood at attention as firefighters later cut him out of the wreckage.

A Chicago Ridge native and graduate of Richards High School in Oak Lawn, Sauter earned his lifesaving medal for coming to the aid of a female motorcycle crash victim Oct. 12, 2008 on Interstate 80.

“Trooper Sauter left a legacy of courage, honor and duty,” ISP Director Hiram Grau said in a statement after the fatal crash. “Our hearts are heavy with grief, but they are also strengthened by Trooper Sauter’s brave calling and dedicated service.”



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