- Associated Press - Friday, February 17, 2017

JOLIET, Ill. (AP) - An Indiana semi-truck driver involved in a crash that killed five people in northern Illinois has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Francisco Espinal-Quiroz pleaded guilty in November to five counts of reckless homicide and falsifying entries in his logbook, which tracked how many hours he was behind the wheel. He was sentenced Thursday during hearing attended by relatives of the victims.

Espinal-Quiroz told the families: “I’m so sorry.”

Espinal-Quiroz, 53, was driving along Interstate 55 near Channahon when his vehicle slammed into vehicles stopped at a construction zone on July 21, 2014. The crash killed five people in three vehicles.

In one SUV, including Kimberly Britton, 43, and Piper Britton, 11, both of Urbana, died at the scene. Timothy Osburn, 64, of Channahon, died in a Chicago hospital more than two weeks later.

Two other women, Ulrike Blopleh, 48, of Channahon, and Vicky Palacios, 54, of Coal City, also were killed when Espinal-Quiroz’s truck struck their vehicles. Three of Blopleh’s children were injured in the crash.

During the hearing, relatives of the victims told Will County Circuit Judge David Carlson how they’d suffered after losing their loved ones. Some called for stricter laws regulating the trucking industry.

Espinal-Quiroz is blind in his right eye but had a waiver to drive a truck through Indiana.

Under state sentencing laws and credit for time served, Espinal-Quiroz’s remaining time in prison will be closer to 2 1/2 years.

Espinal-Quiroz’s offenses could have been eligible for probation or up to 28 years in prison, but prosecutors agreed to seek no more than a 15-year sentence as part of his plea.

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