Illinois State Police to Expand Search for Hit-and-Run Driver

Illinois State Police plan to expand their efforts to track down the driver in a deadly hit-and-run accident.

Police say the accident happened around 1:15 Wednesday morning near Benton, when 26-year old Mandy Griggs, of West Frankfort. tried to run across Interstate-57.  Griggs was hit and killed by a tractor-trailer in the southbound lanes, but police say the driver of the semi never stopped.  Now police are getting ready to broaden their search to a nationwide area.

C.B. radios are a lifeline of information for truckers out on the road, not only about traffic and speed zones, but sometimes more interesting topics.  It's a line Illinois State Police may want to tap into, by placing flyers at truck stops around the country, to see if anyone's heard "anything" about Wednesday's hit-and-run accident.  Tennessee driver Roger Krugger says if he did hear something come over his radio, he wouldn't have any hesitation about turning in another trucker to police.  "It doesn't matter if you're a truck driver or not," he tells Heartland News.  "It's common courtesy to stop, whether you're in the right or wrong. It's your obligation."  Florida truck driver Steve Kalinowski agrees.  "Nobody's going to stand up for somebody that did something like that and just didn't stop," he says.  "If I heard it, and thought there was any truth to it, absolutely I would call police."

While those truckers say it was wrong for that hit-and-run driver not to stop, they also say they can see why it would be hard for a truck driver to see a pedestrian crossing the interstate in the middle of the night...and why it would be hard to stop in time to avoid an accident.  "If you're dealing with traffic around you or ahead of you, and you're watching that, then sometimes it's very difficult to see a pedestrian," explains Krugger.  "Especially if it's dark out, and they're wearing dark clothing."  "At 55 miles per hour, it takes the length of a football field to stop a 53-foot trailer, fully loaded," adds Kalinowski.  "It's very difficult."

Plus, the experienced drivers add, there might even be a "valid" reason that the hit-and-run driver kept on going.  "I'm not making an excuse for a truck driver, but chances are the man never even knew that he hit somebody," says Krugger.  "It's quite common that deer would come out from the shoulder of the road and get underneath the truck," explains Kalinowski.  "You'd feel something, but unless it was in the headlights where they could plainly see it in view, the last thing anybody would think was that it was a person."  Illinois State Police agree that that's certainly a possibility, but say they won't know for sure, unless they can track down that other driver.

Kalinowski also points out that if the hit-and-run driver "did" realize that he or she hit a person, chances are that the driver won't be talking about the accident to anyone, much less to other truckers. 

Another woman, 24-year old Jessica Kopacz of Benton, also ran across I-57 with Griggs.  Kopacz made it across without incident. 

Illinois State Police say I-57 is a controlled-access highway, which makes it illegal for pedestrians to try to cross it.