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Trucker who hit, killed working Illinois firefighter convicted

Reckless homicide and involuntary manslaughter are crimes that share a trait, under Illinois statute 720 ILCS 5/9-3. Both crimes involve unintentional killings caused by reckless behavior; the homicide charge is applied when fatal accidents involve motor vehicles. Recklessness is a defendant's dismissal of safety concerns beyond carelessness, and the difference is evident in criminal punishments and civil damages.

A commercial truck driver recently was found guilty of causing the death of a professional firefighter. The victim was volunteering for the Hudson Fire Department at an Interstate 39 crash scene. The defendant's tractor-trailer struck the victim, a command vehicle nearby and two other emergency units.

The road was icy at the time of the fatal trucking accident, but authorities said the semi-truck was moving at a minimum speed of 37 mph. Illinois's Move Over law requires drivers to use caution around stopped emergency vehicles by slowing down or moving to a far lane. Prosecutors said the defendant failed to do either.

A jury determined, after eight hours of deliberations, the 29-year-old out-of-state truck driver was guilty of recklessness. Prosecutors used evidence from a trucking log to prove the driver had a record of driving without taking breaks, a violation of federal commercial vehicle regulations. The defendant apparently had taken a sufficient number of breaks on the day of the crash, however, because he did not reduce speed or move away from the accident site, his behavior was considered "unreasonable."

The defense unsuccessfully argued for a reduced charge of reckless driving. A sentencing date was set for next month. The truck driver faces a maximum prison term of 14 years.

Road construction crews and emergency personnel are vulnerable to harm during the valuable work they perform. Illinois drivers are expected to give the safety of these workers special consideration. Drivers also must provide a duty of care for all motorists or risk criminal and civil penalties.

Source: The Pantagraph, "Jury convicts trucker in death of Hudson firefighter" Edith Brady-Lunny, Mar. 14, 2014

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