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3 dead in Clinton County crash, 3rd deadly crash in 2 weeks

Police said the crash happened on U.S. 421 late Saturday night.

CLINTON COUNTY, Ind. — It's been a difficult holiday weekend for first responders in Clinton County.

They're investigating their second deadly crash in just a matter of days.

The sheriff believes the latest tragedy, around midnight on the 4th of July, involved at least two people driving drunk.

Debris charred concrete and twisted metal still show the devastation southeast of Frankfort from a holiday weekend wreck at U.S. 421 and County Road 350 South. It destroyed three vehicles and ended three lives.

"It looks really, really, really bad," said a caller to 911. "Get an ambulance here ASAP because the one vehicle looks horrible."

That violent scene is where first responders spent the start of their Independence Day.

"You sit there at 3 in the morning and think, 'This is so preventable,'" said Clinton County Sheriff Rich Kelly. "It didn't have to happen. None of it had to happen."

Sheriff Kelly says the crash involved alcohol. Investigators believe two of the three drivers were drunk.

"When you're walking through that scene and you see alcohol containers laying on the ground, it's a pretty strong indication of what's going on," Kelly said.

Investigators say 29-year-old Amanda Armstrong of Kokomo was speeding south on U.S. 421, when she swerved into the wrong lane and hit an SUV driven by 39-year-old Garrett Fairclough.

Police believe Fairclough overcorrected during the crash, causing the SUV to roll.

Investigators said Armstrong’s vehicle then hit another vehicle, driven by 69-year-old Jackie Burgin, of Frankfort.

Armstrong, Jackie Burgin and Jackie's 66-year-old wife, Shirley Burgin, all died in the crash.

A passenger in Fairclough's SUV suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

Sheriff Kelly says investigators found empty alcohol containers in Armstrong's vehicle. 

He says after a blood draw, investigators believe Fairclough had been drinking, too. Official toxicology results are pending.

The outcome of the accident is frustrating for Sheriff Kelly, who tries to educate his community about the dangers of drunk driving.          

"All of us have cell phones. Make that phone call. Make that right choice. Make the judgments and yes, don't let people drink and drive," he said.

RELATED: 1 dead in Clinton County crash

Kelly also said the ripple effect of this crash goes beyond the families hurt in the accident.

Clinton County has had two deadly crashes in the past week.

The first was a violent two-vehicle wreck last Monday along SR 75 and County Road 700N.

Credit: WTHR

Multiple people were injured, including children.

Investigators say one driver was not wearing a seatbelt.

The other driver, a mother from Frankfort, died in the crash.

Investigators believe one of the drivers may have disregarded a stop sign.

Most of the same emergency crews who responded to the deadly crash on the holiday, responded to that crash too: the volunteer firefighters, the paramedics and EMT's, the sheriff's deputies and crash reconstructionist.

"It's tough for first responders to keep on going to those calls. They carry it with them," Sheriff Kelly said. "You just see it in their eyes. You see it in the deep breath or the sigh and the head hung down and the shoulders drop."

The latest fatal accident happened July 7, around 1 a.m., in the area of County Road 300N and 700E.

Police say 21-year-old Caylen Reed's car went off the road and hit a tree. He died at the scene.

“We are incredibly saddened by yet another fatality in our community! In the weeks to come, we hope to provide more answers as to what took place in this crash. Our thoughts are with the family as they deal with their loss over the next several days and weeks. We want to thank the endless support from our community to our agency and the other first responders as we continue working through the numerous scenes from the last two weeks,” Kelly said in a release.

Chaplains are now being made available and are trying to help first responders cope after what police call preventable tragedies.

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