LIBERTYVILLE, Illinois -- An Illinois State Police trooper was killed early Saturday when a wrong-way driver struck his squad car, the third death of a state trooper this year and second in three days.
District 15 trooper Gerald Ellis died after his squad car was struck on Interstate 94 near Libertyville in Lake County, state police said. Ellis was driving west at approximately 3:25 a.m. when a vehicle traveling east in the westbound lanes hit his squad car head-on.
Ellis was transported to a local hospital where he died from his injuries. The driver who hit Ellis also died, state police said. He was the sole occupant of the vehicle. His name has not been released.
Ellis, 36, was an 11-year-veteran of Illinois State Police District 15 in Downers Grove. He was a veteran of the U.S. military and is surived by his wife, two children, his parents and a brother.
"This loss is bitter salt in an open wound," Acting State Police Director Brendan Kelly said. "Today, another great hero of Illinois has paid the ultimate sacrifice while protecting and serving the citizens of this state. The Illinois State Police family are now mourning the loss of a sister and a brother."
Saturday's crash occurred just three days after state police trooper Brooke Jones-Story was struck and killed Thursday by a semitrailer while conducting a vehicle inspection on U.S. Highway 20 near Freeport.
Jones-Story, who lived in Stockton, was a 12-year-veteran of State Police District 16 located in Pecatonica. She is survived by her husband, retired state police Master Sgt. Robert Story, two stepchildren, a step-grandchild, her parents, a sister and a brother.
The driver of the vehicle that struck Jones-Story has not been named because the investigation is ongoing, a state police official said Friday. The driver was cited with a violation of Scott's Law and improper lane usage.
Ellis was the 16th Illinois State Police trooper struck by a vehicle since Jan. 1. Trooper Christopher Lambert, 34, was killed in January when a driver hit him on I-294 in Northbrook.
"Not since 1997 has the Illinois State Police lost two troopers in this many days," Kelly said. "It has been 66 years since we have lost three troopers in a single year and it's still only March. But know this: our hearts may be broken but our resolve is not."
State police will continue to serve as admirably as ever, Kelly said.
"I ask everyone to consider the fragility of life each and every time you get behind the wheel of a vehicle," he said. "How many more of these tragedies have to occur at the hands of drivers making dangerous choices behind the wheel?"
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White issued a statement Saturday in the wake of Ellis' death.
"I am issuing a call to action to motorists throughout Illinois: Stop driving while distracted. Stop texting while driving. Stop driving while impaired," White said. "Please protect those who protect us by moving over when approaching a stopped emergency vehicle. I grieve for those officers who lost their lives while protecting us and I grieve for their family members."
Ken DeCoster: 815-987-1391; [email protected] @DeCosterKen
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