FORT WAYNE – A crash on Interstate 69 on Thursday left two men dead and two other people in critical condition after a semi hauling an empty car carrier sideswiped another semi being repaired on the side of the interstate.
Baer Field Speedway announced the two dead were championship car owner Blaine Miller and his grandson, 2009 front wheel drive champion Jeff Shelmadine.
Officers and emergency personnel were called about 1:15 p.m. to the southbound lane of I-69, near the Union Chapel Road exit and directly across from Parkview Regional Medical Center, said Jeremy Tinkel, Allen County Sheriff’s Department spokesman.
Tinkel said one man died at the scene and three other people were taken to a hospital in critical condition. A second man later died at the hospital, Tinkel said. He could not identify the victims.
“When you’re pushing that much weight, as the semi was, and you have a vehicle that’s stopped, especially a semi, the impact is tremendous,” Tinkel said. “Anybody involved is going to have multiple injuries, especially if they were outside of the semi as they were in this case.”
Miller, the founder of Blaine Miller Road Service, was assisting a broken-down semi on the west side of the interstate when the truck was struck by another semi, a statement from Baer Field Speedway said.
Immediately after the collision, all southbound lanes of I-69 were shut down, and northbound lanes slowed to a halt as onlookers watched from their vehicles, some pointing at the mutilated semitrailer.
The metal trailer that was struck was crumpled from the front wheels to the back, and the label for Celadon Inc. was unreadable on the side of the vehicle.
A few yards ahead, the semi carrying the orange car carrier came to a rest sideways on the interstate, the metal carrier smashed and twisted.
Across the road, several people stood along the fence surrounding Parkview, watching as crews cleared debris from the area and tried to pull a man, who was pronounced dead at the scene, from underneath one of the trucks.
Southbound lanes remained closed for several hours as vehicles were rerouted. On the other side of the median, officers redirected northbound vehicles into the far right lanes.
By 4 p.m., one of the southbound lanes had been reopened, allowing drivers to proceed slowly through the area.
Information was not available Thursday about why the driver of the car carrier struck the parked semi, Tinkel said. The driver was not injured in the crash.