STEPHENSON, Co. (Sun-Times Media Wire) - An Illinois State Trooper struck and killed by a semitrailer Thursday morning near Rockford is the 15th state trooper hit by a vehicle this year — the second fatally.
The crash continues an unexplained spike in crashes this year. More troopers have been injured in the first three months of 2019 than in each of the three previous years.
Trooper Brooke Jones-Story, 34, was outside inspecting a semitrailer on Route 20 just west of Route 75 at 11:25 a.m. in Stephenson County, Illinois State Police said.
About an hour later, a combination semitrailer veered off the roadway and struck Jones-Story’s squad car, the semitrailer she was inspecting and Jones-Story herself, police said. Jones-Story, a 12-year veteran of District 16 in Pecatonica, died from the crash.
Both semitrailers burst into flames, police said. No other injuries were reported.
“Today is a dark day for the Illinois State Police family,” Illinois State Police Acting Director Brendan Kelly said in a statement. “…Trooper Brooke Jones-Story has made the ultimate sacrifice for people of this state.”
The driver of the semitrailer that hit Jones-Story was cited with violating Scott’s Law and improper lane usage, Kelly said in a news conference. The investigation into the crash was ongoing.
Fifteen state troopers have been hit by vehicles since Jan. 1 of this year and continues an unexplained spike in crashes. State police said the crashes were related to violations of Scott’s Law, which mandates drivers to move over and slow down for emergency vehicles.
Kelly said the circumstances of the crashes — such at the time of day, location and weather — have been analyzed and “no common denominator” was found between them.
“People talk about the lights are too bright at night so [drivers] can’t see, but this is the middle of the day,” Kelly said. “The only explanation is not that troopers are doing the wrong thing, or there’s some a policy issue that’s the problem, or an equipment issue — this is about people caring about what they’re doing and paying attention to what they’re doing.”
“When are people going to start giving a damn and start doing the right thing?” Kelly said.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Kelly met on Monday to address the spike in crashes with troopers and urged drivers to move over and slow down when approaching emergency vehicles.
“This year is frankly unprecedented when looking at all statistics,” Kelly said. “So this is an increasingly great risk for the troopers that are on the side for the road just doing their job….”
Kelly said police are willing to speak with lawmakers to consider harsher penalties for breaking Scott’s Law, which currently punishes violators with fines between $100 and $1000 and a license suspension up to two years.
On Jan. 12, Trooper Christopher Lambert was struck and killed on I-294 when he stopped to help at a three-car crash in the north suburbs of Chicago. Scott Larsen, 61, of Wisconsin, was charged with a count of reckless homicide of an officer and two counts of reckless homicide involving Scott’s Law.