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Crash causes second Illinois trooper traffic death in five months

News headlines capsulize the events of traffic accidents every day. Details of fatal crashes and victims' identities are passed along in paragraphs that fade quickly from the front page. The people left behind -- the victims struggling to recover and families trying to cope with a loved one's death -- are changed forever by sudden, unexpected losses.

A recent fatal accident on Interstate 294 shocked the Chicago law enforcement community. A 28-year-old Illinois state trooper was killed on late night traffic patrol when a tractor-trailer smashed into his squad car.

The Vernon Hills victim had been a trooper since 2008. He was recently reassigned to road patrol after serving as a pilot in air surveillance operations. The trooper died while sitting in his service vehicle along the shoulder of the highway.

Authorities were not certain whether the patrol car's emergency lights were activated at the time the truck rear-ended the trooper's car. Flames erupted upon impact, engulfing both vehicles. The truck driver suffered hand burn injuries. The trooper died at the scene.

A procession of law enforcement officials accompanied the burned squad car as it was towed to the morgue. Firefighters extricated the trooper's body as investigators photographed the wreckage.

Published reports did not elaborate on the follow-up interview police had with the injured truck driver. Officials offered the public no assumptions about the cause of the crash.

The victim was the second Illinois trooper in the last few months to die on traffic duty. A Litchfield state police officer was killed in November when a tractor trailer struck him on Interstate 55.

Many workers accept the risks of dangerous professions. That does not excuse negligent parties from accountability. Personal injury and wrongful death plaintiffs have the right to compensation when harm is traced to carelessness.

Damage awards allow wrongful death plaintiffs -- usually the victim's closest relatives -- to move forward after suffering extraordinary financial and emotional losses.

Source: articles.chicagotribune.com, "Trooper killed in crash 'loved putting on the uniform every day'," Peter Nickeas, March 29, 2013

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