News From Terre Haute, Indiana

March 6, 2013

Winter’s last blast?: Deadly snowstorm plows through Wabash Valley ahead of weekend warmup

Staff Report
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Police and other emergency responders had their hands full Tuesday afternoon and evening as snowy and slushy weather led to numerous crashes, including several with injuries, across the Wabash Valley.

Two of the accidents proved deadly.

A mother and her 1-year-old child were killed Tuesday afternoon in an accident on Interstate 70 in Illinois, five miles west of Marshall.

Later, Indiana State Police Putnamville post reported a fatal collision westbound on Interstate 70 near Cloverdale, about 30 miles east of Terre Haute. It wasn’t immediately clear if weather played a role in the crash, but the National Weather Service said snow was falling in the area.

The Illinois accident, which involved a passenger vehicle and a semitrailer, claimed the lives of Jernika Mountry, 22, of Indianapolis, and her 1-year-old child, according to authorities.

The release did not identify the child. “We have to respect the family’s privacy,” said Jeffrey D. Pearce, Clark County coroner.

An autopsy is scheduled to be conducted on Mountry’s body this morning.

The coroner’s office and Illinois State Police are continuing their investigation into the accident, according to a release from the coroner’s office.

According to Marla Tolliver, a trooper with the Illinois State Police, Mountry was driving east on I-70 when she lost control of her vehicle, went through the median, ended up in the westbound lane and was struck by the semitrailer.

Westbound I-70 was closed for several hours, with traffic re-routed off the interstate at exit 147, the Marshall exit, Tolliver said.

No further details about the accident were available Tuesday night.

Vigo County accidents began in quick succession around 5 p.m., according to scanner traffic.

As of about 6 p.m., four accidents with injury had been reported in Vigo County. However, none of the injuries were considered serious at that time, said Chief Deputy Clark Cottom of the Vigo County Sheriff’s Department.

Several of the accidents involved overturned vehicles. According to police, incidents were reported on Rosedale Road, Rio Grande Road, Fagen Road, Old Royce Road and at Eighth and Locust streets, to name a few.

At 6:20 p.m., Vigo County and Terre Haute police were working five different accidents all at the same time, Cottom said.

Normally, police may respond to five accidents in a day, Cottom said. Having five at the same time, “that’s unusual,” he said.

Within a few minutes, at about 6:30 p.m., more crashes were reported. A jackknifed semi was blocking traffic at U.S. 41 and Pimento Circle in southern Vigo County. At the same time, a rolled-over vehicle, without injury, was reported at U.S. 40 and Hunt Street in eastern Vigo County.

“It’s occurring all over the county,” Cottom said of the accidents.

For the most part, speed is the cause of such accidents, as drivers fail to adjust how fast they are driving in accordance with the weather, Cottom said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.