CLOVERDALE -- A fiery head-on crash on Interstate 70 west of Cloverdale killed a Michigan man Wednesday and closed the highway for several hours, snarling major arteries south of Greencastle for much of the afternoon and into the evening.
Shortly after 2:30 p.m., a box truck driving east on I-70 near the 39-mile marker crossed the median and struck a westbound tractor-trailer rig head on, causing both to burst into flames, said Indiana State Police Trooper Chris Harcourt.
The driver of the box truck, Billie D. Lucas, 65, Wyandotte, Mich., died at the scene. He was thrown from his vehicle and was dead when emergency responders arrived, Cloverdale Police Chief Charley Hallam told the BannerGraphic. Putnam County Operation Life transported the tractor-trailer rig driver, Murali Gopal, 51, Monessa, Pa.,, to Terre Haute Regional Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
Hallam, who along with Cloverdale Police Officer Jason Baugh was the first the arrive on the scene, said he could see thick, black smoke billowing from the wreck even before officers were dispatched.
Cloverdale Township Volunteer Fire Department, the first of three fire crews to arrive, brought the blaze under control within about 10 minutes, said fire department Lt. Brad Roberson.
However, smoke continued to pour off the mangled trailer even as firefighters began cleanup of the area. Burning debris was all that remained of the box truck.
The crash brought traffic to a standstill in both directions on I-70 and caused at least a three-mile traffic backup in the eastbound lane alone.
Curious drivers got out of their vehicles and wandered into the median, attempting to catch a glimpse of what caused the gray cloud of smoke that hung in the air ahead of them.
The State Highway Department closed the west lane of I-70, though police hoped to open it again by 11:30 p.m. The east lane was closed for about 30 minutes.
Traffic was diverted to U.S. 231 and west out U.S 40, causing backups for miles on those and other Putnam County.
Indiana State Police at Putnamville said the investigation would continue Thursday at the scene.