Story Summary

Dozens of vehicles, including semis, involved in I-70 accident in Hendricks Co.

I70AX 1Several people were transported to the hospital after dozens of vehicles, including semis, were involved in accidents on I-70 in Hendricks County.

Police said as many as 17 passenger vehicles and 23 semis were involved in the pileup.

Ten people were transported to area hospitals.  Two people sustained serious injuries.

Officials believe weather played a factor in the pileup, but the official cause is still being investigated at this time.

Eastbound lanes reopened around 7 p.m. The westbound lanes reopened shortly after 10 p.m.

Story Timeline
Previous Next
This story has 10 updates

HENDRICKS COUNTY – Indiana State Police say weather conditions and driver error contributed to the massive pileup on Interstate 70 that killed one person and involved more than 20 vehicles.

According to a report from state police, the crash happened around 2:06 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 31 along I-70 westbound at the 65 mile marker. The report said 24 vehicles were involved: 11 semi-trucks, a box truck and 12 passenger vehicles/pickup trucks.

Around the time of the crash, “a sudden snow fall occurred, creating a white-out [sic] condition and bringing visibility to nearly zero,” the report said. The whiteout conditions caused vehicles to “brake suddenly and at different rates.” While passenger vehicles were able to stop quickly, that wasn’t the case with semi-trucks.

Drivers “could not provide specifics as to the events of the crash but indicated visibility was suddenly lost and vehicles began crashing into each other,” the report said. Weather conditions immediately preceding the crash indicated no such whiteout conditions. However, drivers said that all changed quickly when they reached the 65 mile marker.

The road “flash froze,” according to one driver, and visibility became nearly nonexistent. Cars and trucks began spinning as they tried to stop, and a semi-truck jackknifed in the road. Other semis continued driving at “high speeds and crashing.” A chain reaction of crashes resulted, including a collision involving two of the larger vehicles.

Investigators “could not determine” which vehicle was slow to slow or stop, the report said. Investigators concluded that nearly all drivers were going too fast to adjust to the whiteout conditions and some were following other vehicles too closely.

“The weather conditions and different braking distances required by various vehicles caused a chain reaction that resulted in 24 vehicles crashing,” the report concluded. No citations were issued as a result of the crash, investigators said.

Almost simultaneously, another crash involving multiple vehicles happened in the eastbound lanes of I-70. State police attributed that crash to whiteout conditions and high speeds. State police said that crash involved 17 vehicles, including 12 semi-trucks and five passenger cars/pickup trucks.

The eastbound report said vehicles started to hit the brakes because a semi-truck had started to jackknife across the lanes. Several crashes resulted as other trucks and cars tried to avoid slamming into vehicles in front of them. Some of those vehicles started to slide because of the road conditions.

No citations were issued in the eastbound I-70 crash. The only injury in that crash involved a driver who complained of leg pain.

Indiana State Police said they are continuing to investigate a massive accident on Interstate 70. The final results will be released Feb. 15.

Forty cars were involved in the crash, which killed a 25-year-old Canadian man.

Officials announced earlier this week that they were splitting the crash into two investigations because of its massive size.

Police said a snow squall was probably a contributing factor in the crash.

Last week’s Interstate 70 crash that resulted in the death of a man will be separated into two investigations.

ISP Public Information Officer Sgt. Richard Myers said it will be divided into an eastbound and westbound investigation because the crash was so large.

On Thurs., Jan. 31, 40 cars and semi trucks crashed into each other on the highway in Hendricks County. Some people had to be rescued. Harkirat Sohal, 25, who is from Canada, died. He was in a sleeper when the crash happened.

On Wed. afternoon, almost a week since the crash, ISP investigators met to review the investigation. Sgt. Myers said investigators collected what they needed that day.

“It’s not like a regular crash and we go out and work and diagram (and) see down the road and take measurements. You couldn’t even see to the other end of the crash scene,” Sgt. Myers said.

Sgt. Myers said they are analyzing aerial photographers taken at the scene on Thursday. They are making sure to match-up people’s cars with who was inside, where the car was originally and where it landed. Sgt. Myers said the snowy weather contributed to the size of the crash.

“A snow squall could be a contributing factor, but it’s always the responsibility of the driver to be in control of their vehicle and that’s all that (it) mainly is going to come down to,” Sgt. Myers said.

The last time there was an investigation of this magnitude was several years ago.  Along Interstate 69, a total of 30 cars were involved in a crash. Three people were killed in that accident.

Like any investigation, Sgt. Myers said they will look at everything.

“We don’t want to place blame on anybody or anything at this time of day. We’re not going to until the investigation (has been) complete(d). Then, they’ll see which way they want to point the investigation, what maybe started it,” Sgt. Myers said.

Their investigation could be completed by the end of the week. It will then be turned over to the prosecutor’s office.

The massive pile-up on Interstate 70 posed challenges almost as big as the accident itself for first responders.  The radio transmissions between dispatchers, firefighters and medics showed how frustrating it was for those responding to the scene.

The radio traffic showed that once they arrived, the medics faced a potential mass casualty situation. Many of the 10 victims were trapped in vehicles, but others were walking around the huge accident scene.

The scene proved so chaotic that first responders had to check and double check the area to make sure all the injured were getting treated. Finding all the victims amidst the twisted wreckage proved challenging when every second counted.

One Indiana woman is lucky to be alive after narrowly escaping two semis jackknifing right in front of her during Thursday’s massive Interstate 70 crash.

Joy Stierwalt and her sister were driving to Monrovia when she noticed traffic up ahead.

“We make it almost to the underpass and we see semi’s hitting breaks, and they start sliding,” she explained.

She said she hit her breaks, but they locked up. Suddenly, she found herself heading straight in the middle of the two semis. Somehow, she said, she managed to swerve to the right and miss the trucks.

“They are jackknifing in front of me! And I got over on the shoulder and made it around the concrete barrier,” she said. “We thought we were gonna die. We’re gonna die.”

She pulled over and then she and her sister sat and watched the horror unfold right before their eyes.

“We finally get stopped and we’re like oh my God we can’t believe this just happened. We’re freaking out. And then all you can hear is crush! Crush! And you can just hear metal! Metal!”

Dozens of cars and semis started piling up. Four people were trapped in their vehicles. Avon firefighter Lt. Jason Porter had to use the jaws of life to get a man out of his semi-truck.

“The engine and compartment kinda collapsed around him, had his feet trapped in the car,” he said. “Certain vehicles you kinda look at and you wonder how people are still okay.”

Both he and Stierwalt still can’t believe how many people survived.

HENDRICKS COUNTY – Indiana Department of Transportation officials are confident the cable barriers along Interstate 70 in Hendricks County on Thursday prevented more serious injuries during the massive crash.

The state has been investing in the barriers since 2005.

“No vehicles actually crossed through the median so the cable barriers did their job,” said Debbie Calder, an INDOT spokesperson.

INDOT began testing the barriers in 2005 along sections of the interstate where there were frequent high-speed, head-on collisions.

“The end anchors go down into the ground between 12 to 15 feet, and each pole goes down into the ground about three and a half feet,” said Calder.

The results of the installation on I-65 between Zionsville and Lebanon were as INDOT had hoped. The barriers were hit 69 times in the first eight months, and at no time did any car or truck pass through the barrier. There were no serious injuries as a result, and at least one semi truck was stopped.

“It definitely seems a lot safer. I would feel safer on the road,” said Aaron Grady, an Indianapolis driver.

But the added safety comes at a cost. INDOT has already spent around $30 million installing more than 340 miles of cable barriers. Each additional mile sets them back an estimated $55,000.

“The main thing: watch the cars. The cars cut you off,” said James Ferguson, a truck driver out of Chicago.

Ferguson said that’s especially important when the weather limits visibility and makes the asphalt slippery.

“One thing we’ve heard back from law enforcement officers and people who have been involved in the crashes is that they’re highly effective, and they realize it did help and probably saved them from a more serious accident,” said Calder.

Additional plans to install the barriers that Calder said are less expensive to repair after a crash are being discussed.

One man has died after dozens of vehicles, including at least 20 semis, were involved in an accident on Interstate 70 in Hendricks County.

Indiana State Police said the victim, identified as 25-year-old Harkirat Sohal from Ontario, Canada, was pronounced deceased shortly after 11 p.m. Thursday.

Sohal was transported to Methodist Hospital following Thursday’s accident, when as many as 17 passenger vehicles and 20 semis crashed into each other. According to officials, 10 people were injured and one was killed in the pileup.

Authorities said Sohal was in the sleeper of a 2012 Freightliner semi that was being driven by his father.

Police continue to investigate the official cause of the crash, but they said snow squalls were a contributing factor.  They said visibility on the roads decilined rapidly due to Thursday’s snowfall and drivers slowed rapidly at different rates, resulting in numerous collisions.

Officials expect the investigation to be completed in 10 days.

Several stories of selfless acts of heroism are beginning to come out of Thursday’s massive Interstate 70 westbound crash.

Chris Huke was just feet away from the scene and used his cell phone video camera to get footage of firefighters pulling a man out of a crushed black SUV.

“He was smashed in there and they were trying to get him out the whole time,” said Huke. “I don’t even think words can describe honestly what was going through my head.”

It wasn’t just first responders. Some told Fox59 people were helping the victims even before the first responders arrived to the scene.

“They were out of their cars. They knew more about what was going on than we did by the time we got there, because they’d been there and kind of taken a survey of who was injured, who wasn’t injured,” said Plainfield Assistant Fire Chief Brent Anderson.

He said he also witnessed victims making sacrifices to help others.

“There was a truck driver that approached me out there. He looked like he was having pretty severe back pain. He told me not to worry about him, he knew there were more serious injuries.”

He said the situation was very tough to coordinate, because it was so massive and spread out. However, all the extra help from Good Samartians helped immensely.

“It’s really good that no one actually did have fatal injuries,” said Huke.

It was a huge wreck in a whiteout.  All four lanes of Interstate 70 were brought to a screeching halt.  More than 30 cars smashed into each other, including 20 semis.  People were tangled up in all that twisted metal and crews raced  to get them out safely.

Adam Bassett heard the sirens, but could not believe what he saw.

“I was not expecting anybody to make it out of that, with all of the smashed vehicles I saw,” said Bassett.

Tony Ewald and his family were headed from Arizona to New York.  They were making good time, until Thursday afternoon.

“It took us about an hour to go about a mile,” said Ewald.

Inching along the interstate was not easy, especially with Ewald’s 3-year-old in the car.

“We were stuck for about two hours,” said Ewald.  “Finally, we got off of the only exit we could, we almost ran out of gas waiting.”

Tow trucks were able to get the cars off of I-70 pretty quickly, but prying the mangled semis from underneath the overpass, that was a different story.

The cause of the accident was likely the weather.

“With a snow burst, somebody probably made an abrupt move,” said Rich Myers with Indiana State Police.  “I do not know what started it, but once that domino effect got started in that snow burst, they could not get stopped and this is what we have.”

The Ewald family planned to start their journey again, hoping to avoid any more delays.

“We will see how far that gets us before we get stuck again,” said Ewald.  “This is the third time now that we have been stuck on this trip.  I think we have been going now for 26 hours.”

All lanes of I-70 have reopened following a multi-vehicle crash.

Eastbound lanes reopened around 7 p.m. Westbound lanes reopened shortly after 10 p.m.

Related Stories: