(CNN) — An Illinois State Police trooper was killed early Saturday when he was struck by a wrong-way driver.
He’s the second Illinois trooper to be killed in three days, and the 16th to be struck by a vehicle in 2019.
Trooper Gerald Ellis, 36, was on duty but headed home to his wife and two children on Interstate 94 in Green Oaks at about 3:25 a.m. when a wrong-way driver hit his squad car head-on, according to Illinois State Police.
Ellis, an 11-year veteran of the Illinois State Police, was taken to a local hospital, where he died just after 4 a.m.
The driver of the other vehicle also died, police said.
Brendan Kelly, acting director of the Illinois State Police, didn’t mince words at a Saturday morning press conference, telling reporters and the public, “This loss is bitter salt in an open wound.”
Ellis’ death comes after Trooper Brooke Jones-Story was killed Thursday when she was struck during a roadside inspection.
Days before, Illinois State Police and Gov. JB Pritzker had urged the public to adhere to the state’s “Move Over” law, which requires drivers to change lanes if possible and reduce their speed if they see emergency vehicles or highway maintenance on the roadside.
In 2018, eight troopers were hit in similar incidents, police said.
“How many more of these tragedies have to occur at the hands of drivers making dangerous choices behind the wheel?” Kelly asked. “When will drivers open their eyes to the dangers they face and take them seriously?”
Ellis is the third state trooper to be killed in the line of duty this year. Trooper Christopher Lambert was killed in January while on the scene of a three-vehicle crash. Another vehicle failed to stop and struck Lambert, police said. He died later at a hospital.
“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.”