1 fatality as smoke from hay fire causes chain-reaction accidents on I-65
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent August 18, 2012 10:18AM
Updated: September 20, 2012 10:21AM
One man is dead and nine people were transported to area hospitals after three Saturday-morning multivehicle crashes on both sides of Interstate 65 two to three miles south of the Indiana 10 exit in Jasper County.
All of the wrecks were the result of low visibility due to smoke from a nearby hay fire at Bos Dairy Farm at County Roads 700N and 1000W in Jasper County.
The wrecks closed northbound I-65 for more than seven hours and closed the southbound lanes for about four hours. During the closures traffic was diverted off the highway at the Indiana 10 and Indiana 14 exits.
A 13-vehicle crash in the northbound lanes occurred around 7 a.m. at the 227 mile marker, and two separate crashes in the southbound lanes — one involving six cars, the second involving two vehicles — occurred about 7:20 a.m. at the 228 mile marker.
Richard Swan, 69, of Frankfort, who was involved in the first pileup, was pronounced dead at the scene from blunt force trauma injuries, according to Jasper County Coroner Andrew Boersma. Indiana State Police said Swan was a back-seat passenger and was not wearing a safety belt.
Three other members of his family were transported to area hospitals for their injuries. All three were wearing safety belts. His wife Mary D. Swan, 64, who was also in the back seat, was transported to Jasper County Hospital in Rensselaer along with her son Tyler S. Swan, 39, of Frankfort, who was driving the vehicle. Both had non-life threatening injuries. His daughter-in-law Stacey M. Swan, 36, the front seat passenger, was flown by Lifeline from the scene to Lafayette with serious injuries.
The chain-reaction crash in the northbound lanes began when traffic became slow and stopped due to the poor visibility. A 2009 Volvo semi pulling a box trailer driven by David W. Rickle, 62, of Janesville, Wis., rear-ended a 2008 International semi and box trailer driven by Thomas N. Townsend, 52, of Kenosha, Wis.
Rickle was transported to Franciscan St. Anthony Health-Crown Point with non-life threatening injuries. Townsend was not injured.
The crash between the two semis caused the chain-reaction wreck involving 11 more vehicles. Jose Barradas, 42, of Burlington, Wis., then crashed his Chevrolet Silverado into the semis. He was not injured. Lance Johnson, 42, of Dolton, Ill., was driving a two-trailer United Parcel Service truck that crashed. Johnson was not injured.
Another semi and box trailer, driven by Shannon E. Brown, 26, of Clinton, Iowa, also crashed. He was not injured. The sixth vehicle in the wreck was a 2012 Ford Escape driven by Helen L. Campbell, 68, of DeMotte. She was transported to Jasper County Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
Anthony A. McWhirter Sr., 49, of Remington and his 2002 Pontiac Grand Am was the seventh vehicle involved. He was not injured. Abdule Salama, 26, of Crest Hill, Ill., was driving a 2003 Volvo semi that was next in the wreck. Salama was not injured.
The Swan family, in a 2002 Ford Escape, was the ninth vehicle in the chain.
Robert F. Heide Jr., 53, of Niles, Mich., driving a 2005 Ford Explorer Sporttrac, and Kenneth L. Burkenpas, 69, of West Lafayette, driving a 1998 International semi and box trailer, were not injured. Criselez O. Magno, 34, of Indianapolis, driving a 2009 Nissan Murano, was transported to Jasper County Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
The driver of the 13th vehicle, Robert D. Hollingsworth, 59, of Greer, S.C., was in a 2011 Mazda CX-9. He was not injured.
A preliminary investigation revealed that a chain-reaction six-car crash in the southbound lanes occurred in the area where visibility was bad when a 2003 Chevrolet driven by Judy Abernathy of Lowell began to pass a 2003 Freightliner semi with a box trailer driven by Albert L. Coker, 55, of Scottsburg. Abernathy rear-ended a 2005 BMW driven by David S. Kettler of Chicago. This caused a chain reaction as the Chevrolet pushed the BMW into a 2007 Dodge Ram driven by Martin J. Murphy, 50 of Shakopee, Minn., who was then pushed into a 2003 BMW driven by Montoo G. Patel, 30, of Homer Glen, Ill., who then was pushed into a 2002 Chevrolet driven by Tiffany D. Deno, 23, of DeMotte.
Coker’s semi was loaded with freight, but the load was not lost or damaged.
Abernathy, 60, was transported to Franciscan St. Anthony Health-Crown Point along with a passenger in her vehicle, Nancy Gresham, 83, of Merrillville. Deno was transported to Jasper County Hospital in Rensselaer.
The hay fire started around 7 a.m. in a field at the Bos Dairy, according to a safety officer for the Keener Township Fire Department who declined to be identified. Keener Township was the lead agency responding to the fire.
The fire started Friday in a barn where the hay was stored. The spokesman said the fire occurred naturally from the heat generated during the decomposition of the hay. Firefighters responded Friday and the hay in the barn was removed and spread out on a field. There were no injuries reported at the farm.
Around 7 a.m. Saturday firefighters responded to a call about the fire rekindling and causing thick brown smoke that impaired visibility on both Interstate 65, which was about a mile from the farm, and Indiana 10, almost three miles from the farm.
Firefighters from Keener Township, Lake Township, Wheatfield, Marion Township, Lincoln Township, Hebron and Rensselaer responded to the fire.
“All we are doing is containing the fire ... and trying to drop the smoke down,” the spokesman said Saturday morning.