CLOVERDALE - A fiery head-on two vehicle collision on Interstate 70 west of Cloverdale killed a Michigan man Wednesday and closed the highway for several hours, snarling major arteries south of Greencastle and into Clay County along United States 40 for much of the afternoon and evening.
According to Indiana State Police Trooper Chris Harcourt, shortly after 2:30 p.m., a box truck traveling east on I-70 near the 39-mile marker crossed the median for unknown reasons and struck a west-bound tractor trailer head on, causing both to burst into flames.
Cloverdale Police Chief Charley Hallam said the box truck driver, who was thrown from his vehicle, was dead when emergency responders arrived. Authorities are not releasing further information about the victim pending contact with family members in another state.
Putnam County Operation Life ambulance transported the unidentified tractor-trailer driver, a Pennsylvania man, to Terre Haute Regional Hospital, where he was treated for non-life threatening injuries and later released.
Members of Cloverdale and Jefferson Township Volunteer and the Greencastle Fire departments brought the blaze under control within about 10 minutes. However, smoke continued to pour off the mangled remains of the trailer even as police began a cleanup of the area.
The crash brought traffic to a standstill in both directions for approximately an hour and caused more than a three-mile traffic backup in the I-70 eastbound lane alone.
The State Highway Department closed I-70 west, though officials hoped it would be open again by 8 p.m. The eastbound lane was closed for half an hour. When it reopened, it was down to one lane of slow moving traffic.
When the westbound traffic was rerouted onto US 40, it started affecting Clay County. At one point the bumper-to-bumper traffic was backed up well into Putnam County from the intersection of State Road 59 and US 40 in Brazil.
As traffic conditions worsened, city patrolmen and members of the Clay County Sheriff's Department worked together in an attempt to help motorists reach their destination in a timely manner.
Brazil City Police Chief Terry Harrison had stoplights along US 40 placed on flashing yellow and blocked vehicles from turning south on SR 59 in an attempt to get semi traffic moving out of town and not use the local access to I-70.
Shortly before 9 p.m., the traffic was beginning to slow down as Indiana State Police Troopers directed traffic at the intersection of the US 40/SR 59, allowing motorists traveling northbound on SR 59 to use the highway.
Brazil Times Reporter Ivy Jackson contributed to this story.