(AUBURN) – At approximately 3:15 p.m. Wednesday afternoon Indiana State Police responded to a multi-vehicle crash on I-69 near mile marker 332, which is approximately 3 miles north of Auburn.
A plainclothes ISP detective came upon the crash as it happened and was able to immediately summon emergency medical personal, fire-rescue personnel, and a Parkview Samaritan helicopter to the scene.
The crash, involving two semi-tractor/trailers and five passenger vehicles, required rescue crews from Auburn and Waterloo Fire Departments to extricate two critically injured passengers from a GMC Acadia SUV, with all five occupants of that vehicle being either flown or transported by ambulance to Parkview Regional Medical Center in Fort Wayne.
Unfortunately the two adult passengers that were extricated later succumbed to their injuries and died at the hospital. The other three occupants of the GMC Acadia suffered what were reported as minor injuries.
Also as a result of the crash, an adult male driver of a Mazda passenger car sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene by the DeKalb County Coroner.
Trooper Adam Kitson’s preliminary crash investigation revealed that at the time of the crash, the northbound I-69 traffic had slowed or stopped due to roadway construction delays up ahead near the 334 mile marker Waterloo exit.
A red 2007 Kenworth semi-tractor/trailer driven by 70-year-old James Crager, of Angola, Indiana, was approaching the slowed traffic at a high rate of speed. Crager failed to slow or take evasive action to avoid the congested traffic, which led to a catastrophic chain of events.
Crager’s semi-tractor first crashed into the rear of the red GMC Acadia SUV in the right lane (forcing that vehicle off road down into the right side ditch), continued northbound crashing into the rear of a silver Ford Escape (also forcing it off onto the right shoulder), and then crashed into the rear of a black Mazda passenger car, an impact which then caused the Mazda to crash into the rear of a 2016 Freightliner semi-tractor/trailer.
The Mazda passenger car sustained catastrophic damage from the impact. Fortunately, the drivers two other vehicles, a silver Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck and a blue Chevrolet Trailblazer, were able to take evasive action by swerving off road to the right and avoiding direct impact, both sustaining only minor damage and no injuries.
The crash required the northbound lanes of I-69 at the 332 mile marker to be shut down for over five hours. This created a lengthy traffic back up for several miles, and required the detouring of northbound traffic at the Auburn exits. Southbound lanes of travel were also shut down or slowed for several hours as officers had to redirect and alleviate northbound traffic stuck on the interstate.
Crash reconstruction investigators from the Indiana State Police were summoned to the scene, and the crash remains under investigation at this time. Crash investigations of this nature involve extensive investigation and often take a great deal of time to secure all the evidence and facts surrounding the causal factors and circumstances. Once the crash reconstruction investigators have concluded their work, a full report will be turned over to the DeKalb County Prosecutors Office for review and determination of any criminal charges that may result.
Trooper Kitson was assisted in this crash investigation by numerous troopers from the Fort Wayne Post, troopers from the Commercial Motor Vehicle Division, the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department, Auburn Fire Department, Waterloo Fire Department, EMS personnel from Parkview DeKalb and Steuben County, the DeKalb County Coroner’s Officer, and Bill’s Towing Service.
At this time, identifications of the deceased will not be released, pending notification of family members. Once notifications have been made, an updated release will be sent out. Also, the identifications of the other drivers and passengers involved will also be made available in that updated release.