News From Terre Haute, Indiana

News

August 18, 2011

Deadly I-70 crash snarls traffic

Driver dies as interstate shut for several hours

CLAY-PUTNAM LINE — A horrific truck accident on Interstate 70 Wednesday afternoon claimed the life of one man despite heroic efforts to save him by Indiana State Police and ordinary citizens.

The name of the victim was not being released Wednesday evening.

According to an ISP news release issued Wednesday night, the accident took place after already-slowed traffic in the east-bound lane of I-70 – for unknown reasons – came to a stop. A semi-tractor driven by Kundan S. Randwaha, 57, of Ontario, Canada, stopped with the traffic. His semi-trailer was then struck in the rear by a semi-trailer driven by the man killed in the accident.

Soon after the crash, about 3:16 p.m., ISP troopers Brandon Mullen and Ted Robertson came upon the accident scene and assisted CARE ambulance technicians who were also on the scene. They were attempting to assist the driver of the second truck who was pinned within the cab area of his vehicle.

Flames then erupted within the cab area of the second semi-trailer. The ISP troopers used fire extinguishers as did other motorists but the flames continued to grow. Soon the heat from the blaze became so intense that the troopers and other motorists were forced to retreat without being able to free the man inside. Trooper Mullen’s uniform caught on fire and was extinguished by bystanders, the ISP reported.

The fire involving the truck of the deceased driver was so intense it took firefighters nearly two hours to extinguish, the ISP reported.

The accident, which took place near the Putnam and Clay county line on I-70, came just days after the Indiana Department of Transportation began closing sections of the highway for a multi-million-dollar patching project stretching from Illinois to Plainfield. INDOT officials have been meeting this week with local citizens and emergency responders to make preparations for traffic issues related to the construction.

Interstate 70, which was reduced to one lane in both directions prior to the crash, was closed beginning at 3:16 p.m. and for several hours into the evening. ISP officials expected the roadway to be open by 9 or 10 p.m.

By 9:15 p.m., police in Brazil who were helping direct traffic on U.S. 40 through their city said east-bound traffic remained highly congested but west-bound traffic was moving at a more regular pace. Extra police were called to duty to assist in Brazil and Clay County, the officers said.

“Every time they close the Interstate we get hammered,” said one Clay County resident near the intersection of Murphy Avenue and U.S. 40 on the east side of Brazil.

Traffic from I-70 was using U.S. 40 through Brazil as an alternative route due to the Interstate closure. Traffic was moving to U.S. 40 on Indiana 46 on the east side of Terre Haute, Indiana 59 in Brazil and other roadways. This caused extensive traffic congestion in Brazil and surrounding areas.

U.S. 40 through Brazil Wednesday afternoon and evening “seemed like a solid wall of semis in both directions,” said the Tribune-Star’s Sheila Ter Meer, who was on the scene in Brazil.

Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (812) 231-4232 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (812) 231-4232      end_of_the_skype_highlighting      end_of_the_skype_highlighting or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.

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