ROSELAWN, Ind. — A man and two of his children died after he dropped his wife off at an airport, their vehicle rear-ending a semitrailer on a backed-up Interstate 65 in rural northwest Indiana, authorities said.
The vehicle slammed into the semitrailer full of apples near Roselawn about 11:39 p.m. CDT Monday, state police Sgt. Tony Slocum said.
The interstate was at a standstill because a tanker carrying hazardous material had rolled over a few miles south and spilled nitric acid. A 20-mile stretch of the interstate, both north and southbound, was closed for hours as hazardous materials crews worked to clean up the chemical leak and get the tanker back upright, Slocum said.
The driver of the car that crashed about 30 miles south of Gary was identified as Mallik Chaganti, 45, a doctor from nearby Rensselaer. Slocum said Chaganti failed to slow for the backed-up traffic and crashed into a truck carrying more than 28,000 pounds of apples.
Jasper County Coroner Andrew Boersma said the names of the two children weren't being released because the mother was on a flight to India and hadn't been notified yet. A third child in the car had injuries that weren't life-threatening and he was taken to the hospital, police said.
Chaganti's brother, Mohan Chaganti, told the Chicago Sun-Times that the family had just dropped the mother off at O'Hare International Airport so she could visit her sick father.
Slocum said weather is not believed to have been a factor in the crashes. There were numerous reports of crashes and slide-offs early Tuesday further south on I-65 in Clinton, Tippecanoe and White counties, state police said.
Slocum said the cause of the first crash is under investigation. Police said the truck went off the road into the median, jackknifed and overturned. It wasn't immediately known how much nitric acid leaked. No injuries were reported from the tanker crash, although the driver and a state police officer were taken to a hospital to be checked for exposure to nitric acid fumes.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health says nitric acid is corrosive and its vapor or mist form can irritate the eyes, nose, throat and skin.