Aurora police veteran honored for actions during tragic I-88 accident

A seven year Aurora Police Department veteran has been selected as the March “Employee of the Month” for his actions on Jan. 27 during the tragic incident on I-88 and Eola Rd., where a Tollway worker was killed and an Illinois State Police Trooper was seriously injured when a semi-tractor trailer plowed into their vehicles while they were assisting the driver of a second semi that was disabled.

Officer Sam Aguirre was honored for heroic attempts to render aid to Vincent Petrella, the 39 year old Tollway worker who lost his life.

When he arrived on the scene, both he and fellow Officer Dave Brian tried to get Mr. Petrella, out of his burning truck. 

As Officer Brian was trying to open the passenger side door, Officer Aguirre climbed up on the hood of the vehicle and removed the windshield with his bare hands. 

He then attempted to comfort Mr. Petrella by holding his hands, encouraging him to hang on, and assuring him that help was present. Officer Aguirre stayed close to Mr. Petrella despite the heavy smoke and flames until he was removed from the vehicle.

According to Officer Brian, the smoke was so thick at times that he could barely breathe and he had no idea how Officer Aguirre could have stayed with Mr. Petrella under those conditions.

“Officer Aguirre’s actions were not only heroic and brave,” said Chief of Police Greg Thomas, “But as several of our officers on-scene that night pointed out, they gave a measure of comfort to the Petrella family knowing he was not alone during his final moments.”

The crash also seriously injured Illinois State Police Trooper Douglas Balder.

Aguirre became an Aurora Police Officer on March 19, 2007.


–News Bulletin news sources