Crash kills five on Indiana Toll Road

| 8/2/2006

Five people are dead including a truck driver following a five-vehicle crash and fire Tuesday afternoon on the Indiana Toll Road.

Trucker Clyde Roberts, 57, of Stanley, WI, was among those who were killed.

Two women and two children died in a minivan that Roberts’ truck collided with, according to Indiana State Police Sgt. Trent Smith.

Smith told “Land Line Now” on XM Satellite Radio that investigators will have a tough time reconstructing the crash scenario because the vehicles were burned almost to the ground.

“There was absolutely nothing left of the cab,” Smith said.

Smith did say that Roberts’ truck had a Wisconsin license tag, but virtually nothing else about the truck could be determined at the scene.

Investigators will try to piece together what happened beyond what they already know – that vehicles approaching a construction site about 3:45 p.m. were slowing down or stopping to merge into the right eastbound lane.

“We don’t know exactly what the pre-crash vehicle action was yet of Roberts or of the driver of the minivan (both eastbound),” Smith said.

“We don’t know if the driver of the minivan was already stopped, if she was still moving, or cut him off,” he said. “We don’t know if he was driving too fast or was driving safely.”

Police are certain, he said, that another semi, a toll-road maintenance truck and a passenger car were either slowed or stopped in the right lane because of the construction zone just before the crash happened.

“There weren’t a lot of witnesses, so that was part of the problem,” Smith said.

“It’s going to take a little bit longer than usual to reconstruct this scene because of the severity of the damage and the fire to find out exactly what was the cause, if that can ever be determined.”

Weather conditions were not a factor, Smith said, as Tuesday was clear and 90 degrees at the time of the crash.

Smith said there was evidence of skid marks and gouge marks in the pavement.

The speed limit in the region is typically 70 mph. Smith said the crash happened in a construction zone marked for 45 mph.

Investigators had not yet determined the speed of any of the vehicles at the time of impact.

“People were merging right, and as too many cars got into that right lane, people started slowing down as they funneled their way through the construction zone, and that’s how things started to get backed up,” Smith said.

In addition to the fatalities, there was one other injury in the crash. A toll-road maintenance worker was taken to a hospital with an unspecified head injury, Smith said.

 – By David Tanner and Reed Black, staff writers