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January 11, 2013

High-speed accident kills 1, causes gas leak, evacuations

BRAZIL — A 23-year-old Clay County man was killed after losing control of his vehicle while traveling at a high rate of speed, snapping a utility pole and several mailboxes before crashing into a home just southwest of the intersection of Nellie Lane and Murphy Road in Brazil early Thursday.

Robert Neville of Brazil was pronounced dead at the scene by Clay County Coroner Joel Reinoehl.

Clay County Chief Deputy Sheriff Rob Gambill said his department had received reports about midnight from Neville’s relatives voicing concern that he had left his home. “Family members called in to try to get us to find him,” Gambill said.

“We had officers in the area actively looking for him at the time of the crash,” Gambill said.

“We think alcohol was involved. We have reason to suspect alcohol was involved, but an autopsy will have to confirm that,” Gambill said. Results of an autopsy will likely take five to six weeks, he added.

Word of the 1 a.m. accident spread quickly Thursday among social networks, such as Facebook.

When viewed at 10:26 a.m. Thursday, Neville’s Facebook page stated he had posted a statement 10 hours earlier via mobile post. His posting read, “Nothing makes you feel better than 120mph gota love z28 maros [expletive] snow i wana ride.”

Just a short time before the crash, Gambill said police received a report of a black vehicle traveling north on Harmony Road, northbound from Indiana 42, crossing the highway without stopping at a high rate of speed.

Gambill said little remained of Neville’s black 1990s model Camaro Z28 after the crash, adding it was likely a result of high speed. “The only time I have seen vehicles destroyed that badly were in accidents on the interstate when semis crush a vehicle,” Gambill said.

“It launched [Neville] out of the vehicle through the wall of the house and [into the] inside [of] the house,” Gambill said.

One person was at the home, but was not harmed in the incident, being in a separate bedroom of the home, Gambill said.

The Indiana State Police are using markers and digital photography with a computer system that will attempt to diagram the accident, the chief deputy said.

Hundreds of residents were evacuated from their homes after the accident caused a major natural gas leak after striking the home.

One resident living on Pinckley Street said she was awakened by Indiana State Police just before 4 a.m. Thursday and was told to leave her home as a precaution. They told her that someone had crashed a car into a gas line and they were evacuating residents within a mile radius. She also was told that people with no place to go were being sent to Eastside Elementary School.

Indiana State Police Sgt. Joe Watts said eight ISP troopers assisted with the evacuation, headed by the Clay County Sheriff’s Department. Troopers were asked to evacuate residents in a triangular area of U.S. 40, south to 700 North and from Indiana 59 northeast to County Road 50 East, Watts said.

Shelters were set up at the Brazil National Guard Armory, Northview High School and a church. Some subdivisions evacuated included Colony Acres and Edgewood, Watts said. A nursing home was also being evacuated, using buses from the Clay County School Corp. and ambulances, Gambill said. However, workers for Vectren shut off the gas before transporting began, he said.

Gambill said he was impressed by the cooperation of all of the agencies working together. He said going door to door to ask people to leave their homes was a big task, but many left when reminded of damage from a recent gas explosion in an Indianapolis neighborhood.

Responding agencies included the Clay County Sheriff’s Department, Brazil Police Department, Indiana State Police, Brazil Fire Department, Jackson Township Fire Department, Van Buren Fire Department, Clay County Search & Rescue, Clay County Emergency Management Agency, Clay County School Corp. and the American Red Cross of the Wabash Valley.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at (812) 231-4204 or


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