TERRE HAUTE —
An accident involving a semi-trailer containing hazardous materials shut down eastbound Interstate 70 in Vigo County from near the Illinois state line to Indiana 46 for about six hours Thursday.
The accident caused traffic to be rerouted through West Terre Haute and Terre Haute, leading to gridlock along Ohio Street and Wabash Avenue for much of the afternoon.
One lane of I-70 opened about 5:30 p.m. and the second lane was not expected to open until this morning, according to Indiana State Police.
The semi overturned at the 10-mile marker just west of Indiana 46.
The commercial motor vehicle was carrying numerous containers of various hazardous chemicals, including corrosive and flammable materials, according State Police.
A hazardous material company from Indianapolis was responsible for the chemical cleanup. The Terre Haute Fire Department was standing by as a precaution.
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management was notified.
Initially, cleanup was expected to take up to 15 hours.
If the chemicals on the trailer had become mixed, “it would have created a huge fireball and caused a large evacuation of the area,” said Sgt. Joe Watts of Indiana State Police.
In the rollover accident, a softtop container trailer broke open, dispersing about 20 containers of the hazardous waste into the ditch area. Just a few of the containers leaked some of the waste onto the ground. The contaminated soil had to be removed, and offloading and moving the hazardous materials was expected to be a “slow, tedious process,” Watts said.
The driver, 42-year-old Michael D. Lasiter of St. Joseph, Mo., escaped with only a minor hand injury and was treated and released from Terre Haute Regional Hospital. Lasiter had been en route from Kansas City, Mo., to Indianapolis.
Preliminary investigation revealed the semi-trailer was eastbound on I-70, drifted off the right edge of the roadway, overcorrected, struck an electronic highway warning sign and ultimately rolled over. No other vehicle was involved in the accident.
The crash occurred west of an INDOT construction zone at the 11-mile marker (Indiana 46), but traffic was operating normally and the work zone did not play a role in the crash. Driver error was the cause, Watts said.
Terre Haute city police, the Vigo County Sheriff’s Department and State Police assisted with rerouting and directing traffic.
Initially, traffic was diverted onto U.S. 41, but around 1 p.m., traffic was diverted onto the former U.S. 40 eastbound near the Illinois state line.
State police decided to reroute traffic near the Illinois state line because there was getting to be a major backup at the U.S. 41 exit, Watts said. Police believed that diverting traffic through West Terre Haute and Terre Haute was a safer option that would help slow down traffic and also be less confusing for drivers, he said.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.