Three fiery crashes on I-70 in Clark County Thursday — two in the morning and one in the afternoon — left 2 people dead and shut down the highway for hours.
Matthew Cornett, 37, of Wilmington, was pronounced dead at the scene of one of the morning crashes. The person killed in the afternoon accident was identified as 66-year-old Jimmy L. Carnegie of Englewood.
Two other people were taken to Springfield Regional Medical Center after suffering non-life threatening injuries, officials said.
A massive response by emergency responders started at around 7 a.m. when local dispatch received calls about a semi on fire in the west-bound lane, Ohio State Highway Patrol Post Commander Brian Aller said.
“The fire was right about at the exit 52, and close to the U.S. 68 exit,” Aller said.
As crews worked to put out the flames, the westbound lanes closed causing a traffic jam behind the initial crash. It was about 45 minutes after the first crash that crews were alerted that a second crash had taken place about five miles behind the original.
This one was fatal.
“We got another call about a second crash here at the mile marker 57,” Aller said. “A semi-re-ended another semi, which rear-ended a pickup truck and that truck rear-ended another vehicle.”
Aller said the semi that caused the string of accidents caught fire and the driver was unable to get out.
“The driver that passed away,” Aller said. “We don’t have a lot of information right now.”
Aller said the trailer Cornett was driving was empty, but when he struck the semi in front of it caused massive flames that took his life. Inattention is believed to be the cause of the accident, Aller said, however, an investigation is ongoing.
“We have crash recon at the scene and they are working; we are getting field sketches,” he said. “The EPA is going to come out here and take a look to make sure everything this safe.”
Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers are watching for motorists who don’t leave enough room between their vehicle and the one in front of them, Aller said.
“When you are traveling every 10 miles an hour at least one car length,” Aller said. “The speed limit is 70 miles on I-70 so at least seven car lengths should be in front to be able to stop.”
He noted semi-trucks have a tougher time stopping and therefore more space should be left between them and the next automobile.
“Not only pay attention to what’s going on in front of you, look for traffic ahead of you,” Aller said. “Three hundred to 400 yards ahead.”
Aller said it appeared the first semi-accident took place when the semi hit a guardrail while traveling on the left lane. There is currently construction in the area where the first accident took place, Aller said. The stretch of interstate is being widened from two to three lanes on each side.
The crashes caused the highway to shut down for about three hours Thursday morning. As a result, S.R. 40 coming into downtown Springfield was backed up until the highway was reopened.