Two semitrailers, a state highway plow and an SUV collided in near white-out conditions on I-65 near Walesboro, closing northbound traffic for nearly three hours.
The accident unfolded within 10 to 15 seconds, said Master Trooper Tommy Walker, Indiana State Police spokesman.
The collisions happened about 9:40 a.m. Wednesday as snowplow driver John W. Clark, 43, of North Vernon, was clearing the northbound left lane of the interstate, plowing snow into the median, Walker said.
Because of high winds, the snow was blowing back into the northbound lanes, causing visibility problems behind the plow, Walker said.
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As Clark worked to clear the lane, a semi driven by Dee Tedler, 67, Brush Creek, Tennessee, came up behind him, not realizing a plow was in the roadway because of the blowing snow, Walker said.
At the last second, the Tedler semi tried to move to the right lane, Walker said. When Tedler did, he struck another semi driven by George L. Houston, 50, of Russell Springs, Kentucky, in the left driver’s side, Walker said.
Houston’s semi went off the road on the right side and jack-knifed into a ditch, Walker said.
Tedler’s semi then rear-ended the snowplow, pushing it into the cable barriers in the median, Walker said.
After that collision, a 2014 Ford Expedition driven by Mike Haney of Kentucky, whose age was unavailable, rear-ended Tedler’s semi, Walker said.
Another unidentified driver behind the SUV turned to the left and nearly made a U-turn to avoid a collision and did not hit any vehicles, Walker said.
Columbus firefighters used the Jaws of Life to free Tedler, whose lower leg was caught in his cab, which was damaged in the collision, said Capt. Mike Wilson, Columbus Fire Department spokesman.
Firefighters were unable to access the driver’s side of the truck and entered through the sleeper cab to check Tedler’s condition. It took about 40 minutes to get Tedler out of the cab, Wilson said.
A small dog was rescued from Tedler’s semi by Indiana state troopers David Owsley and Steven Wheeles, who wrapped the dog in a quilt because temperatures were in the low teens when the accident occurred.
Tedler was transported to Columbus Regional Hospital, where he was treated and released Wednesday afternoon.
Clark was checked by medics at the scene and transported to the hospital, where he also was treated and released.
Houston and Haney refused treatment at the scene, Walker said.
Harry Maginity, Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman, said Clark’s plow was one of about 30 working the interstate and state roads in the Columbus area Wednesday morning.
The plow would have been carrying about 8 tons of salt when the collision occurred, he said.
Indiana State Police blocked off the interstate’s northbound lanes, allowing them to send emergency vehicles south from Columbus to the scene.
Traffic was reopened on the interstate at about 1 p.m., but a four- to five-mile backup had formed when the lanes opened, state police said.