TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (July 24, 2015) – Five people, including a Center Grove mother and her two children, were killed Thursday night in a crash on I-65 in Tippecanoe County near the SR 43 exit.
Police responded to I-65 SB at the 178 MM just north of Lafayette at 11:55 p.m.
A preliminary investigation reveals that Bogufalw A. Leja, 55, of Elmwood Park, Illinois, was driving a semi-truck loaded with frozen chicken wings.
Jill Buck, 47, of Center Grove, was driving behind Leja in a Honda Pilot with her two children A. J., 8, and Branson, 10.
Following Buck was a Toyota Yaris driven by Mikhail Yuryevich Stepanov, 41, of Lafayette.
Leja, Buck, and Stepanov slowed down due to construction traffic. A semi truck out of Lockport, Illinois, driven by Pankiv Ruslan, 34, of Lake Zurich, Illinois, was pulling a tanker full of cooking oil.
Ruslan failed to slow down for the construction traffic, and his truck rear-ended the Toyota Yaris, pushing it off the roadway to the right and into a ditch. The impact killed Stepanov and injured the passenger, Tatiana Yuryevna Stepanova, 31 of Lafayette.
The truck continued south and ran into the Honda Pilot, spinning it into the median.
The truck still continued and ran into the rear of the semi hauling chicken wings. The semi caught fire and the Honda Pilot spun into the two semis and also caught fire.
Ruslan, Buck, and her two sons all succumbed to the fire.
Buck was a highly-regarded optometrist in Greenwood, and she was very active in the community.
She leaves behind her husband and three other children. Her oldest son is a freshman at Center Grove High School, and she has two college-age daughters.
The Buck family released this statement via the Greenwood Community Church following the deaths of three of their family members:
The Buck Family is devastated by the news of the loss of our members, Jill, Branson, and Aidan due to the accident that took place last night on I-65. We ask for your prayers through this process. We remain faithful in God in this very, very difficult time and are thankful to the many family, friends, and community members who continue to show their support. We ask for privacy as we grieve together.
“It’s just devastating,” said Angie Reuter.
Angie was later stunned to hear the deaths included three members of Buck family.
“I knew there was a terrible accident on 65. It was devastating to our office and for everybody that knew her,” said Reuter.
Her friends remember her as a great mother, a caring doctor and a big loss to the community.
“Jill was just a beautiful person inside and out was dedicated to her family wonderful eye doctor was very caring with her patients,” said Reuter.
Three other vehicles were also involved in the crash but received minimal damage.
The southbound lanes of the interstate were closed for near 12 hours as a result of the crash.
All lanes are open now.
Officials with the school district did not want to talk about the story today. The family also requested their privacy.