A semi driver and his passenger were killed after a fiery crash involving two semitrailers on Interstate 70 just east of Indiana 46. The crash occurred about 5 p.m. in the eastbound driving lane.
According to a preliminary investigation, an eastbound semitrailer had slowed for construction zone traffic when it was suddenly struck from behind by a second semitrailer, which apparently failed to slow down, according to Indiana State Police Sgt. Joe Watts.
The second (rear) semi caught fire and part of the cab detached. Both the driver and the passenger in the second semitrailer were pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the first semitrailer, Rene M. Rodriguez, 33, of Tucson, Ariz., was not injured and declined medical attention, according to State Police.
The two deceased victims, who appear to have been a male and female, were taken to Terre Haute Regional Hospital, for an autopsy and attempts to positively identify them by Vigo County Coroner Dr. Roland Kohr. The identification may take some time as law enforcement attempts to locate family members and medical records.
The deceased were trapped in the wreckage for 90 minutes as their recovery was slowed by the crush damage and fire, according to State Police news release. The extrication and fire containment was a combined effort of the Riley, Honey Creek and Terre Haute City fire departments.
The accident closed eastbound traffic for several hours. An inspection of both semitrailers by ISP Commercial Vehicle Enforcement master troopers Chuck Tharp and Matt Ames resulted in the Rodriguez vehicle being placed out of service for log book violations. The second semitrailer showed no deficiencies. It appears the accident happened when the second semi driver failed to properly slow down.
“It should be a stark reminder that when you are entering a construction zone, constantly look ahead and constantly check your rearview mirror,” Watts said. “These construction zones are marked adequately, but they do present a danger, and it’s up to you the driver to control your vehicle.”
Among those stopped in traffic was semi driver Louis Rotell of Florida. He did not witness the accident, but he had slowed down when he saw other traffic slowing. When he saw the accident site, he stopped the semi he was driving, which stopped other traffic. “I woke up my co-driver who was sleeping in the back and gave him the fire extinguisher. He ran over to the tractor,” Rotell said.
The co-driver and other stopped motorists attempted to use extinguishers to put out the fire. “They also tried to pry some parts of the cab away … but they couldn’t find anyone. They knew someone was in there,” he said. Soon, “the fire just got too bad, so they had to get away from it.”
Seeing a serious accident “is disturbing. It’s like everything else. Every job has its dangers,” Rotell said. “You just feel bad for the people it happened to. You wonder what the circumstances were” and how the accident could have been avoided.
The crash was investigated by ISP troopers Ted Robertson and Michael Featherling.
If you have any additional information on this accident, please call Mario Massillamany with the law firm of Starr Austen & Miller at (574) 722-6676.
[Source: The Indy Channel]