One dead, two injured in Hamilton County crash

David Clouser was killed in the crash.
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Jennie Runevitch/Eyewitness News

Hamilton County - One person was killed and two were injured in a serious crash in Hamilton County late Friday morning.

A semi collided with a van at US 31 and 236th Street at around 11:40 am at the southwest corner of the intersection, opposite the Gas America station. Police say the semi, which was en route from South Bend, slammed into a white mini van which was eastbound on 236th Street.

"The vehicle that was struck was pinned up against a tree. There were three occupants of the white van. The driver was killed instantly and it took about an hour and forty minutes or so to get the other two passengers of the van out. It was quite an extrication. I haven't seen one like that in a long time," said Hamilton County Sheriff Doug Carter.

Two Flight for Life helicopters were called to the scene.

Drivers who witnessed the crash described it as "horrendous" in 911 calls to police.

"A semi just plowed an SUV crossover vehicle into a tree," one caller said.

"They are trapped. They are trapped. There's a semi truck pinned up against a tree. They are trapped," said another.

"There are a bunch of injuries," yet another caller described to dispatchers. "It doesn't look good."

Police say the driver of the van, 65-year-old David Clouser of Carmel, was pronounced dead at the scene. His passengers, Jeffrey Pinn of Rochester, N.Y., and Michael Zimmer of London, Ohio, are both in fair condition at Indianapolis hospitals. Pinn reportedly had internal injuries and Zimmer suffered leg injuries in the crash.

"By the time I got here, the one was gone. The second one was trapped for the longest period of time. He was talking with us. He appeared to have some extremity injuries but we don't know the extent of what those might mean internally," said Carter.

Pinn and Zimmer were pinned in the wreckage for more than an hour and a half. Police say Clouser was killed instantly.

"Perfect brother, fantastic dad, fantastic husband. Just a good all-around person," said his brother, Dennis Clouser.

The driver of the semi, 47-year-old Tarrance Lee, was later handcuffed and led away from the scene. He is being held in the Hamilton County Jail for criminal recklessness with a motor vehicle causing death and false informing.

According to the Indiana Sex and Violent Offender's Registry, Lee was convicted of murder in 1986. He was released from prison in February 2006.

In a tragic twist, Eyewitness News has learned Clouser made a living keeping people safe on the roads. He worked as a recruiter for a trucking company, making sure truckers were safe to drive on the roads. The two men with him in the van were semi drivers, returning from training.

"He was taking them to their trucks when he got hit by another truck," Dennis Clouser said. "Here he was doing his job, keeping people safe, and he gets killed doing it."

Clouser had also put in for retirement on Thursday, just one day before the fatal crash. Frustrating for his family too, is the news that the semi driver who police say caused the crash, refused a breathalyzer and blood test, which is required by law.

They also say Lee, who was driving for Storm Trucking, either falsified his log books or lied about them to police. He was jailed in Hamilton County and faces charges of false informing and criminal recklessness. Investigators at the scene said he didn't appear impaired, but truckers do have a lower blood alcohol level limit, by law - .04 rather than .08.

That Lee refused a toxicology test could lead to a license suspension, in addition to the criminal charges.