An ongoing investigation by the Illinois State Police involves a fatal crash that happened on the morning of Sunday, January 19, 2020. According to a report from the Rockford Scanner, the crash occurred north of US 30, along Interstate 55 in Will County. Earlier that morning, a box truck had been involved in a separate, minor crash. The truck had pulled over on the side of the road, where it blocked two southbound lanes. Shortly after, a car struck the box truck from behind, causing a second, fatal crash. The driver of the car was Erin Zilka, a 35-year-old police officer from Joliet. Zilka was reportedly treated at a hospital for non-life-threatening injuries. Despite efforts made by emergency responders, the passenger in Zilka’s vehicle passed away at the scene.
The victim has been identified as Charles Schauer, a 33-year-old man from Glen Ellyn. Schauer was also a police officer who worked in Berwyn. At the time of the crash, both Schauer and Zilka were off-duty. Authorities believe Zilka was driving under the influence, and police have charged Zilka with a DUI misdemeanor. Zilka’s defense claims she was below the legal limit and that the crash may have occurred because of poor visibility. The investigation of the accident is ongoing.
Schauer Remembered For His Devotion
Authority has referred to the crash as a tragic incident. The community of Berwyn is mourning the loss of Schauer, who was a well-respected member of the Berwyn Police Department. As a 10-year veteran of the department, Schauer was known for his dedication to his fellow officers. Those who knew Schauer from the police department said he was an “outstanding officer” who was always determined to help others.
Officer Rickey Smith spoke on Schauer’s willingness to take the initiative and lend a hand wherever he could. Smith also credited Schauer for helping Smith with his training, saying that Schauer did everything with “the utmost professionalism.” Guy Papa, who is the Berwyn Police Department’s division commander, remarked that Schauer was an “intelligent” man and someone that the team could always count on. Schauer was also a beloved husband and father. He leaves behind his wife and two children, according to Berwyn police.
The Berwyn Police Department decorated Schauer’s squad car with purple bunting to honor his memory and mourn his loss, a tradition for fallen police officers. During a memorial, visitors covered the vehicle with flowers and candles. The mayor of Berwyn encourages the public to offer prayers and support to Schauer’s loved ones at this time.
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