MACKEY,Ind. (WISH) – An overloaded van that overturned on a southwestern Indiana highway, killing two people, had badly worn tires and wooden bench-like passenger seats, investigators say.
State Police Sgt. Todd Ringle said Friday an accident reconstructionist found that three of the van’s four tires showed signs of “extreme” dry rot. He said the van’s right rear tire blew out, causing the driver to lose control before it overturned Thursday near Interstate 69’s Fort Branch exit.
“It was a van that was kind of top heavy, it was overloaded, and the driver had no control over vehicle after that right rear tire blew,” he told the Evansville Courier & Press.
The 16-passenger van was carrying 24 people to a factory when it crashed in southern Gibson County. Police said most of its passengers were Haitian immigrants.
A 60-year-old woman, Gena Moise, died at the scene and a 19-year-old woman, Christela Georges, died Friday from her injuries.
Georges was 24 weeks pregnant, but her child was delivered alive at St. Mary’s Hospital in Evansville. A hospital spokesman said the child was in critical but stable condition. Four people injured in the crash remain hospitalized in fair condition, while two others were in good condition.
The van was traveling from the city of Washington to AmeriQual’s Evansville factory, which prepares ready-to-eat meals for the military.
An AmeriQual spokesman said it had hired the workers through a temp agency. The company released a statement calling the crash tragic.
“We are deeply saddened by this tragedy, and our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones,” said vice president Rashid Hallaway.
Gibson County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Bruce Vanoven said investigators believe they know who owned the van. Authorities have not released the owner’s name and are continuing to investigate the crash.
Vanoven said police don’t believe the van hit anything before the tire blew. He said the van’s other tires appeared just as worn as one that gave way.
“I’m not a tire expert, but they weren’t something that I would have been driving with,” Vanoven said.
He said the van had a piece of wood attached as a rear bumper and there were no seats in the vehicle’s rear portion. Instead, that area had been modified with wooden bench-like seats.