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.