Chesterton Tribune

Trucker dies in 49 crash here

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An Illinois trucker died on Tuesday in a horrific three-vehicle accident on Ind. 49, and investigators are saying only the flukes of physics prevented a further, and possibly much greater, loss of life.

Chesterton Police have identified the victim as Mark Flock, 51, of Ottawa, Ill. Porter County Coroner Vicki Deppe pronounced him dead at the scene and in an autopsy performed this morning determined the cause of death to be blunt force trauma to the neck with additional blunt force trauma to the chest and abdomen. The results of a routine toxicological screen are pending, Deppe said.

At approximately 11:14 a.m. Flock was northbound on Ind. 49, driving an empty semi-tractor box trailer owned by Central Grocers of Franklin Park, Ill., and approaching the intersection of Gateway Blvd., Det. Lt. Dave Cincoski of the CPD told the Chesterton Tribune this morning. For an unknown reason Flock slammed into the rear of a semi-tractor flatbed trailer hauling three steel coils with enough force to drive the steel hauler over a concrete median, into and through a straight truck stopped on westbound Gateway, and then over a second concrete median on the far side of the straight truck, Cincoski said.

The driver of the steel hauler was Daniel Lay, 35, of Ohio. The driver of the straight truck was Michael Saylors, 42, believed to be an Indiana resident. Neither Lay nor Saylors nor Saylors’ passenger was seriously injured, Cincoski said.

The exact circumstances of the crash remain under investigation, Cincoski said. It’s possible that Lay had a fresh red light and had just stopped the steel hauler at Gateway. It’s also possible that Lay had a fresh green light and had not yet gotten his steel hauler up to speed. In either case, however, Flock’s rig left “numerous feet of skid marks,” indicating that he had locked his brakes prior to impact. “He perceived some sort of a problem,” Cincoski said. “What it was, I don’t know.”

All three steel coils being hauled by Lay were ejected. Two rolled to the west, across three lanes of traffic, and came to rest in the median. The third went to the east, across the right-turn lane for eastbound Gateway, and came to rest off the roadway.

That third coil may also have struck Flock’s cab, Cincoski said. Or otherwise Flock’s cab went under the trailer of the steel hauler, because “there was serious override to the front end” of his tractor.

Saylors’ straight truck, on the other hand—which contained household items for a move—was essentially cut in two behind the cab as Saylors was waiting to proceed westbound across Ind. 49 and onto the Indiana Toll Road, Cincoski said.

Cincoski was still calculating this morning the approximate speed at which Flock was traveling before he hit the brakes. He did say, though, that the impact between Flock’s rig and the steel hauler had to have been “pretty violent” because all six chains securing the coils snapped.

“With the steel coils bouncing around and the straight truck being hit, with the heavy traffic at that time of the day, I think we’re very fortunate we didn’t have more fatalities,” Cincoski said.

Both the Chesterton and Liberty Township Volunteer fire departments responded to the scene, with Liberty firefighters performing the extrication of Flock from his cab. Deppe said that the extrication took an hour and that the LTVFD did an outstanding job under very difficult circumstances.

Also responding to the scene was a hazardous materials team from the Porter County Environmental Department.

Traffic on northbound Ind. 49 remained restricted well into the afternoon on Tuesday for cleanup and reconstruction, and as late as 3:30 p.m. an incongruous array of household appliances—being carried by Saylors—lay strewn across the ground at the northeast corner of the intersection.

Cincoski said that later today he was meeting an officer from the Motor Carrier Inspection Division (MCID) of the Indiana State Police, to continue his reconstruction and to assist the MCID in its own investigation.

Trooper Injured

While Responding

Meanwhile, an ISP trooper and four others were injured on Ind. 49, just north of C.R. 500S, as the trooper was responding to Tuesday’s fatal crash, the ISP said.

According to police, at 11:53 a.m. Senior Trooper Glen Fitfield, 38, was northbound on Ind. 49 in his unmarked squad, running with emergency lights activated, when a semi and a Ford F-150 southbound on Ind. 49 observed the approaching squad and began to slow and move to the right.

Christopher M. Merry, 25, of Kouts, however, following the Ford F-150, was unable to slow his GMC Sonoma in time, and rear ended the Ford, causing Merry to veer left into the northbound lanes and strike Fitfield’s squad, police said. Fitfield lost control of his squad, left the roadway to the right, and struck a steep ditch earth embankment head first.

Fitfield, a 10-year veteran of the ISP, sustained a head injury and a broken wrist, police said.

Merry, who was not wearing his seat belt, was treated at Porter Valparaiso Hospital Campus and released. His passenger, Frances Cornett, 24, of Valparaiso, was also not wearing a seat belt and was transported to Porter hospital with a leg injury. Merry was issued a citation for following too closely, police said.

The driver of the Ford F-150, Marvin P. Arnett, 61, of Wheatfield, was transported to Porter hospital with a complaint of back pain. His passenger, Lola Arnett, 58, also of Wheatfield, was similarly transported with a complaint of neck pain.

Ind. 49 just north of C.R. 500S was closed for around 90 minutes in both directions for cleanup and reconstruction, police said.

 

Posted 5/28/2008