Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

October 15, 2013

Fiery semi crash sends driver to hospital

Brent Brown
Greensburg Daily News

Greensburg — GREENSBURG – A semi carrying coiled steel left I-74 and caught fire shortly after 8:30 p.m. Monday evening, sending the driver to the hospital and shutting down portions of the interstate for a period of time.

Greensburg Fire Chief Scott Chasteen told the Daily News two westbound semis on I-74 collided, sending one off the north side of the interstate at about the 130 ½ mile marker, near Frontage Road. The cab of the truck caught fire and was destroyed by flames during the course of the accident. The cab was briefly airborne before coming to rest in a ditch, a press release from the Decatur County Sheriff’s Department noted Tuesday.

EMS personnel found the driver outside of the cab. Chief Chasteen said it could not be determined whether the driver crawled from the wreckage or had been ejected. The truck driver was conscious and alert at the scene, but was transported via ambulance to Decatur County Memorial Hospital. The driver, identified in the press release as Robert Smith, 50,of Owenton, Ky.,was later flown by medical helicopter to the University of Cincinnati Hospital. Authorities believe Smith may have suffered internal injuries in the accident.

Smith told investigators he was eating while driving and had begun choking on his food. The driver temporarily lost consciousness, leading to the course of events that caused the accident.

The second semi was also damaged in the collision and had to be removed from the scene, Chasteen said. The driver of that vehicle, Jamie P. Zach, 40, of Exira, Iowa, complained of pain in his arm but declined treatment at the scene. A press release described the damage to the second truck and trailer, a 2013 Freightliner belonging to Mid-Continent Trucking Company in Denison, Iowa, as minor.

Smith works for FH & C Enterprises, based in Williamstown, Ky.

Chasteen said the Greensburg Fire Department (GFD) had the fire mostly extinguished within about 10 minutes of their arrival on scene. An additional GFD engine and a second tanker were later deployed to ensure firefighters had enough water to douse the flames. The St. Paul Volunteer Fire Department assisted by bringing an additional tanker. Fire crews remained on the scene late Monday night.

Fire and EMS responders were assisted by members of the Decatur County Sheriff’s Department , New Point Town Marshals and the Greensburg Police Department. Deputy Rob Goodfellow is leading the investigation.

A portion of I-74 was shut down as fire crews battled the blaze, Chasteen said. Once the flames were extinguished, one lane of the interstate was opened to traffic.

Sweet’s Wrecker Service removed the vehicles late Monday. The accident caused oil and diesel fuel to leak into the waterway prompting authorities to contact the Department of Environmental Management, the Sheriff’s news release said. Best Environmental Clean Up removed the spill.

Contact: Brent Brown 812-663-3111 x7056