CLAY COUNTY, Ind. (WISH) – A fiery crash along I-70 stopped traffic for several hours as crews worked to put out the flames and clean up the mess.
A large fire happened after the crash in the westbound lanes at the 19 mile maker in Clay County around 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon. That’s just west of the Brazil exit.
Indiana State Police said three semi trucks were involved. Two caught fire and melted down to the frames.
“I’ve been here for two hours and about 45 minutes,” said driver Tim Wickline who was stuck in stalled traffic about a mile east of the crash. He and several other people stepped out of their cars onto the highway as they waited for the crash to be cleaned up. In front of him was a parking lot of vehicles spanning nearly a mile. “I was thinking ‘man I should have got off at that last exit back there’,” he said.
One of the drivers was transported to the hospital for injuries. Police believe one semi failed to stop for traffic congestion, and jack-knifed, causing a chain reaction.
According to ISP, a semi driver, 48-year-old Abid Sibalo, applied the brakes at the last minute, this caused his truck to jack-knife. Sibalo’s semi then struck another semi, driven by 32-year-old Deepak Aery, in the westbound lane. Aery’s semi then proceeded to strike a third semi driven by 65-year-old Jerry Johnson.
“During the jackknife, those fuel tanks impacted the other vehicle, the trailer which ignited that fire which then spread into the second tractor trailer,” said ISP Sgt. Joe Watts. “I’ve been along I-70 for 31 years so I’ve seen just about everything but everytime we roll up and there’s extensive fire and you see smoke rising in the air and we’re 2-3 miles fromthe scene we can see it, we just hope that everyone’s ok.”
Two of the tractor-trailers then erupted in fire, destroying both units.
It’s the third time in the past 24 hours police said they’ve responded to a crash in which the initial driver failed to slow down in time near a construction zone along I-70. Friday in Hendricks County, a semi-truck didn’t hit the brakes in time. It rear ended a box truck which was then pushed into a school bus filled with teenagers. A passenger in the box truck was killed.
Later that night, Sgt. Watts said another semi-truck rear ended a vehicle causing a train reaction crash near Terre Haute. Nobody was seriously hurt in that accident.
“Those 80,000 pound vehicles can take up to length of a football field to stop,” said Sgt. Watts.
“The reality of the situation of what we do for a living is a dangerous job out here,” said Wickline who is also a truck driver. “There’s a lot of people who don’t pay attention, there’s a lot of people who take what we do for granted.”
Sgt. Watts is urging drivers to pay better attention on highways, especially since several of them still have construction work going on. “Look beyond the hood of your vehicle and know what you’re approaching,” he said.
Sibalo was transported to Terre Haute Regional Hospital for facial and head injuries as well as back lacerations. Those are injuries are non-life threatening.
Aery and Johnson were not injured in the accident. SIbalo was cited for failure to reduce speed to avoid a collision.
The smoke from the crash could be seen from downtown Terre Haute.