AUBURN — Three people are dead after a seven-vehicle crash Wednesday, Sept. 16, on I-69 three miles north of Auburn.
At about 3:15 p.m. Indiana State Police responded to the crash near mile marker 332.
The crash, involving two semi-tractor/trailers and five passenger vehicles, required rescue crews from Auburn and Waterloo Fire Departments to extricate two critically injured passengers from a GMC Acadia SUV.
All five occupants of that SUV were either flown or taken by ambulance to Parkview Regional Medical Center, Fort Wayne. Two adult passengers extricated later succumbed to their injuries at the hospital. The other three occupants of the GMC Acadia suffered what were reported as minor injuries.
Also as a result of the crash, an adult male driver of a Mazda passenger car sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene by the DeKalb County coroner.
A preliminary crash investigation revealed at the time of the crash, the northbound I-69 traffic had slowed or stopped due to roadway construction delays near the Waterloo exit. A red 2007 Kenworth semi-tractor/trailer driven by James Crager, 70, Angola, was approaching the slowed traffic at a high rate of speed. Crager failed to slow or take evasive action to avoid the congested traffic, which led to a chain reaction of events.
Crager’s semi-tractor first crashed into the rear of the red GMC Acadia SUV in the right lane (forcing that vehicle off the road down into the right side ditch), continued northbound, crashing into the rear of a silver Ford Escape (also forcing it off onto the right shoulder), and then crashed into the rear of a black Mazda passenger car, an impact which then caused the Mazda to crash into the rear of a 2016 Freightliner semi-tractor/trailer.
The Mazda car sustained catastrophic damage from the impact. The drivers of two other vehicles, a silver Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck and a blue Chevrolet Trailblazer, took evasive action by swerving off the road to the right and avoiding direct impact, both sustaining only minor damage and no injuries.
The crash required the northbound lanes of I-69 at the 332mm to be shut down for more than five hours. This created a traffic backup for several miles, and required the detouring of northbound traffic at the Auburn exits.
The crash remains under investigation at this time. The names of the deceased have not been made public yet.