Chesterton Tribune



Semi truck driver involved in fatal crash on 194 near Michigan state line

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Indiana State Police responded to a three vehicle crash, involving two semis, which closed I-94 for approximately two hours, and killed one of the semi drivers early this morning.

According to police, at approximately 2:01 a.m. Howard B Gutenstein, 47, of Valparaiso, stopped his vehicle in the middle of the right lane at the 43 mile marker approximately 2.5 miles west of the Indiana/Michigan State line, got out, and began to walk around.

Police said that a driver of a 2007 International semi pulling a refrigerated box trailer, George A. Leeth, Sr., 37 of Hammond, reported to 911 dispatchers that Gutenstein’s vehicle had been driving erratically, off and onto the road, from lane to lane, with speeds varying from 25-60 mph east bound on I-94 before it came to a stop.

Police said the driver had activated his four way emergency hazard lights as he was talking to 911, stopped behind the Gutenstein and got out of his semi to talk to him. Leeth advised Gutenstein to get back inside his car because of traffic in the area. As Leeth climbed back back into his semi, a second semi collided with his pushing it slightly into the rear of the Gutenstein’s vehicle, police said.

The second semi, a 2006 Freightliner pulling a tanker, driven by Steven Lunn, 52 of Olympia Fields, Ill., was east bound in the right lane when he swerved to the right to avoid Leeth’s semi, police said. Lunn’s semi hit the rear of Leeth’s trailer causing the cab to come to rest in the right lane and the tanker on the outer shoulder, police said.

Lunn’s semi was owned by Langer Transport out of Jersey City, N.J. He was loaded and placarded for Ethanol. No load was lost or compromised, police said.

Lunn had to be extricated from his semi and was pronounced dead at the scene by the LaPorte County Coroner of massive trauma, police said.

Leeth was taken to Saint Anthony’s Hospital in Michigan City for non-life threatening injuries, police said. Leeth’s semi was owned by Fore Transportation out of Harvey, Ill., and loaded with perishable food. No load was lost.

Police said further investigation revealed that Gutenstein had a blood alcohol content of .13 percent. Gutenstein was taken to LaPorte County Jail where he was charged with Operating While Intoxicated causing Death, a Class C Felony and Endangering, a Class A Misdemeanor, police said. He was not injured.

Traffic was diverted off I-94 at State Road 421 until approximately 4 a.m. when the left lane was reopened; all lanes were reopened at 7 a.m., police said.

Assisting at the scene were LaPorte County FACT Team, LaPorte County Coroner, Trooper Danielle Elwood-Reconstruction, Corporal Fred Blohm, and Trooper Brian Rubesha.


Posted 4/25/2013