A Nashville, Indiana woman died and two Nashville residents suffered serious injuries after their pickup truck was caught between two semis on Interstate 65 at the Columbus exit.
That 12:05 p.m. accident was the most serious of four that occurred within hours of each other Wednesday. The other three included an earlier I-65 semi rollover about 8:21 a.m., a two-vehicle accident at County Road 250S and County Road 50W at 9:37 a.m. and a one-vehicle accident about 10 a.m. near Elizabethtown.
The I-65 accident involving the fatality occurred on the signature bridge at the Columbus exit in the southbound lanes and may have been related to the earlier semi rollover, Indiana State Police said.
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The initial investigation by Trooper Matt Holley indicated that traffic was slow in the area due to the previous overturned semi, said Sgt. Stephen Wheeles, Indiana State Police spokesman.
A 2016 International semi pulling a full-size trailer, being driven by Charledrix N. Green, 35, of Atlanta, Georgia, was traveling southbound on I-65 near the Columbus exit and had slowed for the slowing and stopped traffic, Wheeles said. A 2006 Chevrolet Silverado, driven by Randall F. Brown, 52, of Nashville, was southbound behind Green’s vehicle and had also slowed for the stopped traffic, Wheeles said.
A 2011 Volvo tanker truck, driven by Jon W. Harris, 54, of Crawfordsville, was traveling south following Brown’s vehicle. For an unknown reason, Harris was not able to stop before striking the rear of Brown’s pickup truck. The force of the collision pushed Brown’s vehicle into the back of Green’s semi, Wheeles said.
As a result of the collision, Brown along with an unidentified female front seat passenger and a rear passenger, identified as Melissa S. Morris, 47, of Nashville, were trapped in the vehicle, Wheeles said. Morris was pronounced dead at the scene by the Bartholomew County coroner’s office.
The unidentified passenger in Brown’s vehicle has possibly been identified but her identity will not be released until it is verified, Wheeles said. She and Brown were flown to Methodist Hospital, Indianapolis, by Lifeline helicopter for treatment, Wheeles said.
More than a dozen Columbus firefighters and about eight Columbus Township firefighters worked for an hour and 15 minutes to free the three victims from the pickup truck, said Capt. Mike Wilson, Columbus Fire Department spokesman.
Emergency medical workers provided medical care to them while they were trapped in the vehicle and while firefighters worked to free them, Wilson said.
Firefighters used a cribbing system and pneumatic bags to use air pressure to lift the semi off the passenger compartment of the truck to free the victims, Wilson said.
Green and his passenger along with Harris were transported to Columbus Regional Hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries, Wheeles said.
Toxicology results are pending at this time on all drivers involved in the crash. Alcohol and drugs are not suspected to be factors at this time, Wheeles said.
One firefighter was taken by ambulance to the hospital from the scene and the fire department is awaiting information on his condition, Wilson said. Firefighters believe he may have become overheated.
Four ambulances were also sent to the scene, along with at least two wreckers that were used to help pry the semis apart from the pickup.
I-65 was shut down for about four hours to clean up the scene. Traffic was diverted off the interstate at the Taylorsville interchange to U.S. 31 while the interstate was closed. Some traffic was also diverted off the interstate at State Road 46 before the interstate was closed.
Accidents began early
The other accident involving a semi on I-65 occurred at the 64-mile marker, about four miles south of the Columbus exit. A semi overturned but no injuries were reported, Columbus police said.
At 9:37 a.m., Bartholomew County Sheriff’s deputies were sent to a two-vehicle accident at County Road 450S and County Road 50W. A dump truck collided with a car and one person was transported by medical helicopter from the scene, Columbus firefighters said.
Firefighters did extrication at that accident scene, and then were sent to a single-vehicle accident at about 10 a.m. that resulted in serious injuries to a man and woman just west of Elizabethtown.
Investigators identified the two injured people as middle-age residents who lived in the Elizabethtown area.
Their older-model, dark gray Chevrolet S10 pickup truck was traveling westbound when the crash occurred shortly before 10 a.m. on County Road 475 South, said Capt. Dave Steinkoenig of the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department.
Their truck veered off the right side of the rural road and clipped off a utility pole in front of a residence, which caused the pickup to flip, Steinkoenig said.
The male, who was in the front passenger seat, was partially ejected. He was found pinned under the overturned vehicle when first responders arrived, Steinkoenig said
After a Statflight helicopter landed in a nearby field, the man was flown to St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis, Steinkoenig said.
The female driver was briefly trapped in her seat before firefighters were able to extricate her from the truck, said firefighter Doug Hollenbeck of Columbus Township Fire & Rescue.
She was transported by ambulance to Columbus Regional Hospital, where an evaluation was expected to be made regarding whether she should also be transferred to Indianapolis, Hollenbeck said.
The downed utility pole, which carried both electric and telephone lines, provided power to less than a half-dozen homes in rural Elizabethtown, a Duke Energy lineman on the scene said.
An Indiana State Police accident reconstructionist was called to the scene to help determine exactly what happened.
Assistant managing editor Julie McClure and reporter Mark Webber contributed to this report.