State police continue investigation of accident that claimed 7
By Teresa Auch Schultz firstname.lastname@example.org August 19, 2013 10:04PM
The soldering remains of a semitrailer sit on Interstate 65 late Thursday at the 230 mile marker in Jasper County. | Indiana State Police photo
Updated: September 21, 2013 6:17AM
Indiana State Police are still investigating what caused a Thursday evening crash on Interstate 65 in Jasper County that killed seven people, including four from Merrillville.
Sgt. Tony Slocum said that the investigation will likely take some time as police await the results of a toxicology report.
Crash scene investigators could also need to visit the scene again.
Slocum said that police have not ruled out whether sleep, talking or texting on a cell phone or other distractions played a role in the crash.
The crash happened just before 10 p.m. Thursday when a semi-trailer, driven by Howard Stratton, 55, of Grand Rapids, Mich., slammed into a Jeep Cherokee going north on I-65 north of the Indiana 14 exit. The Jeep was stopped for construction traffic behind another semi-trailer, driven by Steven Crockett, 33, of Union, Ohio, and was crushed between the two before it set on fire.
Lindsey Williams, 27, of Merrillville, and her two daughters, Yazmin Goldman, 5, and Arielle Goldman, 3, were in the Jeep along with Williams’ sister, Yvette Williams, 35, of Atlanta, Williams’ children Jamin Osborne, 5, and Jasmin Osborne, 7, and their uncle, Amado Mangual, 49, of Merrillville. All seven people died.
The crash also burned the cab of Stratton’s semi, and Stratton was taken to a local hospital for injuries.
Stratton was driving with a valid license, Slocum said.
Police at first saw only two dead people in the Jeep and didn’t discover the others until they took the Jeep to Keener Township Fire Department. Slocum said the force of the semi, which was traveling at a fast speed, crunched the car to just a quarter of its original size. Because of that and damage from the fire, police weren’t able to see how many people were actually in the Jeep right away.
However, Slocum said, police had an idea more people were likely inside because a boyfriend of one of the victims had called state police asking about the Jeep.
This was the fifth fatal accident on I-65 in Jasper County since April, compared to two on interstates in Lake County and one each in Porter and LaPorte counties during the same time period. Two of the fatal accidents, including the one Thursday evening, were connected to construction traffic.
Slocum said that police and the Indiana Department of Transportation work to make sure drivers slow down in construction zones but added that ultimately, drivers need to watch the roads better.
“They have to be paying attention, not doing a myriad of distracting behaviors” he said.
He encouraged drivers to pay attention to the road signs so that they would know when construction was coming up and to start paying attention for slowed or stopped traffic. They also need to focus on the road instead of eating, texting or even changing the radio station.
“It doesn’t take that long before traffic backs up and you rear-end someone,” he said. “It’s often quite catastrophic.”
Slocum said he didn’t know how the number of accidents in Jasper County compare with an average but said it does sound high.
“I know sometimes we get in our own little worlds when we get in our vehicles,” he said, but people owe it to themselves and others to watch out.