CLOVERDALE -- Indiana State Police officials have released the names of the two victims involved in the fiery head-on two-vehicle collision at the 39-mile marker on Interstate 70 that closed the highway and snarled traffic in Putnam and Clay County along United States 40 late into Wednesday evening.
According to a press release by Indiana State Police Trooper Chris Harcourt, the driver of the box truck, Billie D. Lucas, 67, of Wyandotte, Mich., was killed when he crossed the median for unknown reasons and struck a westbound tractor-trailer head on, causing both vehicles to burst into flames and throw debris all over both lanes of the highway. Lucas was thrown from his vehicle and was dead when emergency responders arrived.
Putnam County Operation Life ambulance transported the tractor-trailer driver, Murale D. Gopal, 51, Monessen, Pa., to, where he was treated for non-life threatening injuries and later released.
Because Lucas was killed in the accident, ISP officials told The Brazil Times an autopsy was scheduled to take place at Terre Haute Regional Hospital lab. Dr. Roland Kohr confirmed he performed the preliminary work in the Lucas autopsy Thursday afternoon.
There were no signs of a natural cause of death, such as a heart attack, and only massive head and chest trauma injuries on Lucas's body during the autopsy. The official time of death was determined to be 1:57 p.m. and has been ruled accidental.
After contacting Lucas' family members in Michigan, Putnam County Coroner Thomas Miller said officials believe that he might have fallen asleep while driving. He said arrangements are being made to return Lucas to his family.