Smoke from a dairy farm burning hay and heavy early morning fog in Jasper County combined Saturday to reduce visibility on Interstate 65 to less than 30 feet, leading to multiple collisions and one fatality, police said.
Indiana State Police identified 19 people from six states as either involved, injured or dead in separate crashes occurring between 7 and 7:18 a.m. in the northbound and southbound lanes of the interstate between the 227 and 228 mile markers in the area of DeMotte.
Richard Swan, 69, of Frankfort, Ind., a passenger in a car involved in the northbound crash, died at the scene.
Local residents taken to hospitals for treatment included Helen Campbell, 68, of DeMotte; Judy Abernathy, 60, of Lowell; Nancy Gresham, 83, of Merrillville; and Tiffany Deno, 23, of DeMotte.
Police said the smoke contributing to the reduced visibility came from the Fair Oaks Farms west of the interstate.
The collisions began at 7 a.m. in the northbound lane about three miles south of the DeMotte exit when a semi pulling a box trailer driven by David Rickle, 62, of Janesville, Wis., rear-ended another semi pulling a box trailer driven by Thomas Townsend, 52, of Kenosha, Wis. Poor visibility is believed to have caused the crash.
The collision caused a chain reaction involving 16 motorists or passengers, including Swan.
About 7:18 a.m. a semi pulling a box trailer driven by Albert Coker, 55, of Scottsburg, Ind., was slowing or stopped in the southbound lane two miles south of the Ind. 10 exit.
Police said a 2003 Chevrolet driven by Judy Abernathy, of Lowell, abruptly went around the semi, rear-ending a 2005 BMW, driven by David Kettler, of Chicago, setting off a chain reaction involving three other motorists, one of whom was injured.
Northbound left lanes were closed for 7 1/2 hours for removal of vehicles, cleanup and medic helicopter landing, police said.
Southbound left lanes were closed for 3 1/2 hours.