I-69 reopens after 31-vehicle accident - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

I-69 reopens after 31-vehicle accident

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Chris Proffitt/Eyewitness News

Hamilton County - Police say 22 cars and nine semi-trailers were involved in a deadly chain reaction crash on I-69 Tuesday morning.

Two people were killed in the crash, which occurred around 9:45 am. A total of eleven victims were transported to the hospital. Five injured motorists refused treatment at the scene.

Two of the deceased victims have been identified as 27-year-old Dustin R. Goettman and 28-year-old Ryan A. Phillips, both of Anderson.

A third person was reported as deceased, but on Wednesday police issued a statement saying that the person was in fact in critical condition. That person was later identified as Donald E. Hayden, 61, of Tecumseh, Michigan.

"Once the banging stopped, I climbed out of my truck and saw this," said Kevin Robinson, accident victim, gesturing towards the pile-up.

"When I knew I couldn't stop, I did a sharp turn to the right and opted to go into the ditch," said Arlene O'Keefe of Fort Wayne.

That split-second decision probably saved her life.

"I probably would have went under the semi that was in front of me," she said.

She later witnessed first-hand just how fortunate she was.

"I saw there was a lady trapped underneath that very truck that I avoided," O'Keefe said. "They had to cut parts of the car off and stuff to rescue her."

Like O'Keefe, Robinson walked away from it all unhurt.

"God's with me," he said. "He's definitely with me."

O'Keefe echoed Robinson, remembering what she'd seen.

"It's something I'll never forget. God saved my life," she said.

Snow created near white-out conditions at the time of the crash.

"What we had was panicked drivers. Drivers driving too fast and following too close started a chain reaction," said Sgt. Anthony Emery, Indiana State Police.

A Fishers Fire Department truck dispatched to the scene just before the crash was struck first. The truck was headed southbound when it was struck by a southbound vehicle.

"It's very possible that this started with emergency vehicles out looking for an inverted vehicle," said Sgt. Gerry Hepp, Fishers Police Department. "It's possible that we had a vehicle that became disabled that led to the succession of crashes."

The firefighters were not injured in the crash.

Emergency crews overwhelmed by the scope of the crash called in other departments to assist. Police shut down the interstate in both directions for about ten miles.

Some 25 witnesses and drivers involved in the accident were questioned by police. Many were too shaken to recount the scene.

There was also fuel spilled on the roadway, which a Hazmat team dealt with. The highway was closed for much of the day between SR 238 and 116th Street, with the northbound lanes reopening at 4:30 pm. The southbound lanes of I-69 remained closed until 9:45 p.m. while crews cleaned up the scene.

Crash reconstructionists from the Indiana State Police will meet on Wednesday to further investigate the accident.

The National Weather Service says 3.7 inches of snow fell at Indianapolis International Airport in about three hours before 10:00 am Tuesday.

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