Crash investigation continues; interstate reopens but needs permanent repairs

A semitrailer that caught fire and burned Wednesday on Interstate 65 south of Seymour was carrying a mix of hazardous chemicals including two corrosive liquids, a caustic acid, a non-flammable gas and an oxidizing solid, police report.

The fire, caused when some of those chemicals leaked and mixed, led to voluntary evacuations for about three hours in a half-mile area around the crash scene in the southbound lanes of the interstate near the 43-mile-marker, according to a report from Sgt. Stephen Wheeles, public information officer for the Indiana State Police Post at Versailles.

It also created traffic snarls well into the evening for motorists, especially those trying to travel south of Seymour.

The southbound lanes of the interstate reopened shortly after 9 p.m. Wednesday once Indiana Department of Transportation workers made temporary repairs. A permanent fix will have to be made, Wheeles said.

The fire occurred more than six hours after the crash, reported at 4:37 a.m. That crash began when the driver of a 2017 Freightliner, Uche J. Okpeh, 30, of Jacksonville, Florida, drove into the rear of a 2012 Freightliner driven by Vitali Kriuchko, 34, of Orlando, Florida, according to a report from Trooper Korry Clark.

The impact of that collision pushed Kriuchko’s truck into the back of a third semitrailer driven by Bobby L. Brand, 46, of Gadsden, Alabama. Kriuchko’s and Brand’s semitrailer had been slowed with other traffic because of a wreck earlier in the morning that left a semitrailer on its side on the shoulder. They were removed from the scene before the fire broke out.

None of the drivers were injured in either wreck, but a passenger in Okpeh’s Covenant Transport truck, Senesie Kuyateh, 39, of Jacksonville, Florida, sustained non life-threatening injuries. He was treated by Jackson County Emergency Medical Services personnel and taken to Scott Memorial Hospital in Scottsburg.

For more on this story, read Friday’s edition of The Tribune.