Semi crash on I-70 claims two lives

Friday, August 24, 2018 ~ Updated 8:23 PM

CLOVERDALE -- Two people died early Friday morning when a tractor-trailer veered into the median of Interstate 70 and crashed head-on into trees.

Putnam County sheriff's deputies were dispatched to the 43.5-mile marker of I-70 at 5:22 a.m. for a report of a single-vehicle crash and fire.

Deputy Josh Boller said that from evidence at the scene, it appears that the tractor-trailer, registered to Central Arkansas Truck Leasing of Malvern, Ark., was traveling in the passing lane when it began to drift into the median.

There were no skid marks at the scene, Boller said, with the truck simply veering into the grass median before gradually working its way up an embankment and crashing head-on into a pair of trees and bursting into flames.

Another truck driver came upon the scene and pulled over to try and help. He said he could see the driver trapped in the cab.

As flames began to spread on the tractor, the other driver attempted to put them out with the fire extinguisher from his own truck. He had to back away once the heat became too intense.

Boller said the fire spread through the section of trees in the median, with the passing lane of both eastbound and westbound I-70 closed as responders from the Cloverdale, Greencastle and Reelsville fire departments battled the blaze.

Operation Life and Indiana State Police both also responded to the crash.

The driving lane in each direction remained open throughout the incident.

Fire completely destroyed the semi tractor and it was not until the fire was out that investigators realized there was a second victim in the crash.

Putnam County Coroner Dave Brown told the Banner Graphic that investigation into the identities of the driver and passenger is ongoing.

Identities are not being released at this time pending the positive identification and next of kin notification.

Both bodies have been scheduled for autopsy and forensic testing to establish their identities as well as to rule out any medical issues that may have contributed to this accident.

Brown and Deputy Coroner Todd Zeiner are working the case in conjunction with Boller.

The coroner also praised the firefighters for their work in the traumatic case.

"The fire personnel performed admirably in extinguishing the fire and were invaluable in recovering the victims," Brown said.

Boller said that personnel remained on scene for six hours after the crash.

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