Region doctor, children killed in I-65 crash

2014-04-15T20:35:00Z 2014-04-16T19:43:12Z Region doctor, children killed in I-65 crashLauri Harvey Keagle lauri.keagle@nwi.com, (219) 852-4311 nwitimes.com

A Rensselaer doctor and two of his children were killed Monday night in one of several crashes that plagued the region as snow hit the area.

Dr. Mallik Chaganti, 45, of Rensselaer, and his young son and daughter were killed in a crash at 11:39 p.m. near the 227-mile marker on southbound Interstate 65, about 3 miles south of the Roselawn exit.

Jasper County Coroner Dr. Andrew Boersma said the two children were 10 and 14. A third child in the vehicle, a boy, survived and was transported to Jasper County Hospital, Boersma said.

The boy suffered broken bones, he said. Police said his injuries were not life-threatening.

Boersma said Chaganti's wife traveled to India on Tuesday and had not been notified of the tragic crash as of Tuesday night. Boersma said he was waiting for her to land in India to notify her of the deaths.

Two hours before the fatal crash, Indiana State Police Trooper Zachary Beaver responded to a semi rollover in the southbound lanes of I-65, also near the 227-mile marker. A 57-year-old man from Wapakoneta, Ohio, was driving a 2007 Western Star semi pulling a tanker full of nitric acid when he drove off the road and into the median, police said.

The semi jackknifed and came to rest on the driver's side, spilling nitric acid.

The semi driver and Beaver were transported to a local hospital for exposure to the nitric acid fumes. Both were treated and released, police said.

No citations were issued, and police said neither alcohol nor drugs were suspected as contributing factors.

That crash and spill lead to the wreck that killed Chaganti and his children. A 2003 Volvo semi out of Battle Ground, Wash., was pulling a 1998 Utility box trailer loaded with more than 28,000 pounds of apples and slowed in the right lane because of the semi rollover and hazardous materials spill ahead.

State police said Chaganti was not able to slow the 2008 Toyota Sequoia he was driving before hitting the rear of the Volvo semi.

The driver of the semi was not injured. Police said neither alcohol nor drugs were suspected to be contributing factors to the crash. The crash investigation is ongoing, police said.

The hazmat cleanup and fatal crash investigation closed all lanes of traffic for up to 14 hours. The southbound lanes reopened at 10 a.m. Tuesday and the right lane and shoulder of the northbound lanes opened just before noon.

All of the children involved in Monday's crash attended St. Augustine Catholic School in Rensselaer, Boersma said. Boersma planned to meet with teachers and school officials Tuesday morning to discuss the deaths.

Anne Dumas, principal at St. Augustine, declined comment Tuesday morning.

Boersma said the identities of the children were not being released pending notification of their mother.

Chaganti worked at the Clinic of Family Medicine in Rensselaer and was on the staff at Jasper County Hospital, according to the hospital's website. He graduated from Andhra Medical College in India and did his residency in Detroit.

I-65 was not the only road with crashes as snow caused slick conditions Monday night and Tuesday morning. As much as 5 inches of snow fell in some parts of the region.

Indiana State Police for the Toll Road said they were actively working 20 crashes at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday. The eastbound lanes of the Toll Road remain closed at the 26-mile marker east of Willowcreek Road near Portage because trucks were unable to maneuver on the ice there, police said.

Indiana State Police for the Lowell District said they responded to multiple crashes Tuesday morning.

Traffic on U.S. 231 from Arizona Street to Broadway near Crown Point was at a halt because of thick ice on the road, Lake County police said. U.S. 30 from Hobart to Schererville was littered with slide-offs and spin-outs Tuesday morning, too.

Highland, Hobart and St. John police dispatchers said officers responded to multiple slide-offs, spin-outs and crashes throughout the morning.

The snow marked the first April snowfall in the Chicago area since April 18, 2011, the National Weather Service said. Early snowfall totals in the region ranged from half an inch in Crete to 5 inches in Crown Point. Gary recorded 1.3 inches; Valparaiso, 2 inches; and LaPorte, 1 inch.

Times staff writer Keith Benman and Elvia Malagon contributed to this report.

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