CROWN POINT — A "mishap" on northbound Interstate 65 Wednesday night left a semitrailer standing upright in a gravity-defying and seemingly precarious position, which Indiana State Police are chalking up to "driver error."
A dump trailer being hauled by a semi struck an overpass and was discovered upright and leaning against the 113th Avenue bridge over the highway, according to Indiana State Police Sgt. Glen Fifield.
Two state troopers were on the scene Wednesday night at the 248.8 mile marker, according to the Indiana State Police's Lowell District. I-65 northbound traffic was diverted for three hours near Crown Point's exit 247 while troopers investigated and a towing service and the Indiana Department of Transportation cleaned up the scene.
Investigators blamed the bizarre scene on one of Northwest Indiana's busiest interstate highways on "driver error."
Indiana State Police Cpl. Eric Rot said the crash could have been disastrous if the dump trailer had not been empty at the time of the accident and if it had taken place during a busier time when more vehicles were on the highway.
"It looks like he was hauling gravel," Rot said. "People would have been injured if he loosed a load like that during rush hour. It could have been catastrophic if it happened during rush hour."
But the accident took place about 10:17 p.m. Wednesday night — a time when fewer vehicles are on the road and when vehicles are more spaced out, Rot said.
"It's a six-lane highway there, plus the shoulders," Rot said. "It happened in the far right lane, so there would be two lanes to get around."
The truck's driver, 31-year-old Chicago resident David Chavez, inadvertently activated the dump control while driving, which caused the trailer to tilt into the upright position where it struck the 113th Avenue overpass when the truck drove underneath, police said.
The dump trailer was sheared off the semi and came to a rest upright in the middle of the road while the truck kept going.
Chavez stopped the truck shortly after the impact and was not injured, requiring no medical attention at the scene.
Rot said the dump trailer likely was raised shortly before the truck drove under the overpass. He said he's seen a handful of such crashes over the years, in which trailers became detached or were crushed after striking roadway structures.
Drivers should immediately call 911 if they see such accidents and may want to pull over to the shoulder instead of trying to pass if they want to be cautious. But that likely would not have been necessary in this instance, Rot said.
The Midnight Blue towing service ended up towing away the 2005 Superior dump trailer owned by C&M Trucking Services in Chicago from the scene, while Crown Point police blocked off the roads and diverted traffic.
INDOT inspected the bridge to make sure it was safe to traverse after the crash. INDOT Northwest Indiana spokesman Adam Parkhouse said there was a minor amount of damage that did not in any way jeopardize its structural integrity.
"A small amount of concrete came off but nothing that would require closing down the bridge," he said. "It's minor work that can wait until winter is over."
The semi, a 1988 Kenworth also owned by C&M Trucking Services, was driven away from the scene.
"Looking at those pictures, it was unbelievable no one was hurt and the damage was so minor," Parkhouse said. "I don't use this word lightly, but it was a miracle."
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