LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A woman and her two young sons were among five people killed in a fiery chain-reaction crash after a semitrailer hauling a tanker filled with cooking oil slammed into vehicles slowed near a northwestern Indiana construction zone, state police said Friday.
The crash late Thursday on Interstate 65 near Lafayette killed 47-year-old Jill Buck of Greenwood, Indiana, and her sons, 8-year-old A.J. and 10-year-old Branson, police said.
State Police Sgt. Kim Riley said Buck and her sons were traveling in a minivan that was rear-ended by a semitrailer driven by Ruslan Pankiv of Lake Zurich, Illinois, who was hauling a tanker filled with cooking oil.
Riley said the 34-year-old Pankiv, who also was killed, failed to slow as he approached the construction zone about 60 miles northwest of Indianapolis and first rear-ended a car driven by 41-year-old Mikhail Stepanov of Lafayette. The impact killed Stepanov and injured a 31-year-old woman who was his passenger.
"There are signs for about 20 miles down the interstate to tell you that you're coming into construction and that traffic is going to be slowing," Riley told WISH-TV. "He apparently didn't see the signs, or wasn't paying attention, started to rear-end the vehicles, basically just plowed through the cars and ran into the rear-end of the second semi here."
The impact pushed Stepanov's vehicle into a ditch before Pankiv's semi rear-ended Buck's SUV and then ran into the rear of a semitrailer that was hauling chicken wings.
Riley said Pankiv and the Bucks were killed by the fires that swept through their vehicles after the chain-reaction crash. He said those fires were caused by the fuel in their vehicles, and the tanker filled with cooking oil didn't rupture in the chain-reaction impacts.
Police said three other vehicles were also involved in the series of crashes, which closed the highway for hours. I-65's southbound lanes reopened shortly after noon Friday.