Truck driver killed in collision leaves behind wife, 5 children

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PONTOON BEACH, Ill. - A head-on collision Thursday morning killed a pick-up driver from South Roxana and seriously injured a Pontoon Beach police officer.

The crash occurred just after 8 a.m. just south of New Pogue Road on Highway 111. The highway was closed for hours.

A fire broke out when the two vehicles collided.

"It was definitely a very bad crash," Illinois State Police Trooper Calvin Dye Jr. said.

State police said they have multiple witnesses, including a woman who was driving southbound behind the pickup, and said the driver, for some unknown reason, crossed the center line and smashed into the Pontoon Beach police car.

"She said he swerved into the northbound lane she also said no one animal jumped out in front."

The pickup driver, 33-year-old Daniel Bell, was pronounced dead at the scene.

"He was a loving husband, great father, great friend," said Starla Bell, Daniel's wife.

Starla said they married last Fourth of July. She said her husband helped many people.

"He'd take his own shirt off his back to help anybody, whether he knew them or not," she said.

The police officer had to be cut out of his vehicle and a medical chopper flew him to a St. Louis hospital. He was communicating during the rescue. Officers said he has severe leg and facial injuries.

Before working for Pontoon police, the officer spent five years on the South Roxana force.

"He is a good person. I think he wanted to bring the best out in kids," South Roxana Mayor Barbara Overton said.

The mayor said citizens were disappointed when the officer took another job, he is loved by many in South Roxana.

"There was one time a kid was having problems here in town and he went to him and was playing basketball with him out there. 'You know, if you straighten your life out, I'll buy you a bike.' The kid straightened his life out and he bought him a bike," Overton said.

The officer has taken part in mixed martial arts. He worked out a lot.

"The kids love him here he like a gentle giant," Overton said.

At last report, the officer was in serious condition. Funeral arrangements were pending for Dan Bell, his family said he was on his way to work when he died. Dan did not have life insurance, so Starla launched a GoFundMe account to help cover the costs of a funeral.