Trucker charged in crash that killed state trooper - Fox 2 News Headlines

Trucker charged in crash that killed state trooper

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Illinois State Trooper James Sauter Illinois State Trooper James Sauter
Andrew Bokelman, 26. (Photo courtesy of Illinois State Police) Andrew Bokelman, 26. (Photo courtesy of Illinois State Police)
SKOKIE, Ill. (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

A Wisconsin truck driver was charged Wednesday in a fiery crash that killed Illinois State Trooper James Sauter on the Tri-State Tollway March 28, the Sun-Times is reporting.

Andrew Bokelman, 26, of Lomira, Wis., is charged with violating three federal rules governing the operation of a commercial motor vehicle, a Class 4 felony, according to an Illinois State Police spokeswoman.

Those rules prohibit driving through fatigue, driving after a work period of 14 consecutive hours without taking 10 consecutive hours off, and making a false report in connection with the driver's duties.

A Cook County judge Tuesday set Bokelman's bond at $125,000, meaning he would have to post $12,500 to be released from custody. The judge gave Bokelman permission to live with his family in Wisconsin if he made bail.

State troopers packed Bokelman's hearing in a Skokie courtroom in a show of respect and support for the Sauter family.

Sauter's car was parked on the left shoulder of I-294 near mile 48.5 near Willow Road when Bokelman's truck approached, according to an Illinois State Police crash report. It alleges Bokelman fell asleep and the truck veered left, hitting Sauter's cruiser in the rear and killing the trooper.

Bokelman's truck was also traveling in the left lane of the expressway, a witness told police, even though semitrailers are supposed to stay in the right two lanes, according to authorities. Bokelman was charged with improper lane usage the day of the crash, but the ticket was dismissed April 15.

The Chicago Sun-Times first disclosed in June that federal investigators found Bokelman had been working more than 14 hours before the crash. Bokelman, who investigators said worked for United Van Lines agent Barrett Moving and Storage, was fined $2,500 as recommended.

United Van Lines was fined $5,500, but records show its recommended fine was twice that — $11,000. A spokesman for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said United Van Lines' fine was capped at $5,500 per policy because Bokelman broke the rule once in seven days.

Investigators said Bokelman worked for Barrett from 6:31 a.m. until 6:32 p.m. the day of the crash. A federal spokesman said Bokelman had been loading and unloading trucks "all day long." Then, between 7:14 p.m. and 7:34 p.m., the trailer later involved in the crash was moved within Waukesha, Wis., according to GPS reports.

The trailer began to travel again at 8:49 p.m., investigators wrote, and didn't stop until 11:03 p.m., when it crashed in Cook County. The records say Bokelman was behind the wheel.

United Van Lines issued a statement this summer that it was fully cooperating with authorities and was "deeply saddened by the loss of Trooper Sauter." An attorney working on United's behalf said in June the company didn't know about Bokelman's work hours.

He said Bokelman didn't begin to operate under United Van Lines' interstate authority until 8:49 p.m., and he said the company didn't dispatch him. But a federal spokesman said the company was fined because Bokelman broke the rule while working for United.

Records show Bokelman was hired in December with no previous truck driving experience except for a Class A Commercial Truck Driving program he finished in fall 2012. He was given entry-level driver training and a road test after he was hired, an investigator wrote.

Sauter, 28, had been a trooper since 2008 and earned a lifesaving medal as a cadet for coming to the aid of a female motorcycle crash victim that year.

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