The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Local News

February 6, 2013

Witness: Driver might have been falling asleep

ELWOOD, Ind. — Witnesses believe the woman killed in a head-on collision Tuesday was falling asleep at the wheel before the wreck.

Jennifer Campbell Sotelo, 27, of Grant County was pronounced dead at the scene from multiple blunt force injuries when the Volkswagen sedan she was driving plowed into a 2011 Freightliner milk truck on Indiana 37 near County Road 900 North, said Madison County Coroner Marian Dunnichay.

Darrin Gowan, 46, of Indianapolis, was in a vehicle following the Volkswagen northbound and said he watched the accident unfold. Police dispatch received a 911 call reporting the accident just before 9 a.m.

“From the time we got behind her, we saw her weaving into the opposite lane and into oncoming traffic,” Gowan said. “She had at least two near collisions. She jerked back into the right lane just in time.”

Gowan said he and his wife assumed Sotelo’s erratic driving was a result of falling asleep at the wheel. He said he and his wife were debating calling police to report the Volkswagen about 15 seconds before the collision.

“She just drifted over,” Gowan said. “The truck veered a little bit but it wasn’t enough. Debris scattered for about 50 yards. It was pretty obvious, even with the airbag, that she wasn’t going to make it. I’m glad I didn’t try to go over and check out the wreckage.”

Gowan said another possibility could have been that Sotelo was texting while driving. But that information was not confirmed by authorities.

“I have teenagers, and that’s one of the first things you think about is ‘Oh no, I hope they weren’t texting,’” Gowan said.

Sotelo’s body, which was trapped in the wreckage, had to be extricated from the vehicle.

“You just hope it happened so fast that she didn’t know what happened,” Gowan said.

The driver of the milk truck, Christopher Al Therr, 37, was transported to St. Vincent Mercy Hospital in Elwood, said Madison County Sheriff Ron Richardson.

The box truck landed on its side in a ditch and sustained a punctured fuel tank. Madison County hazardous materials teams worked nearly four hours to clean up the leak, Richardson said.

Find Jack Molitor on Facebook and @AggieJack4 on Twitter, or call 640-4883.

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