A woman and her two young sons were among five people killed in a fiery chain-reaction crash Thursday night, after a semi-trailer truck hauling a tanker filled with cooking oil, slammed into vehicles slowed for a construction zone on I-65 near Lafayette, Indiana.
“By the time troopers got there, and we had troopers within 3 or 4 miles of the crash scene, by the time they got there it was engulfed,” said Indiana State Police spokesman Sgt. Kim Riley.
The crash killed 47-year-old Jill Buck of Greenwood, Indiana, and her sons: 8-year-old A.J. and 10-year-old Branson.
Riley said Buck and her sons were traveling in a minivan which was rear-ended by a semi-trailer truck driven by Ruslan Pankiv of Lake Zurich, who also died in the crash. Investigators said Pankiv failed to slow as he approached the construction zone, about 60 miles northwest of Indianapolis, and first rear-ended a car driven by 41-year-old Mikhail Stepanov of Lafayette. The impact killed Stepanov and injured a 13-year-old passenger.
“There are signs for about 20 miles down the insterstate to tell you that you’re coming into construction and that traffic is going to be slowing,” Riley said. “He apparently didn’t see the signs, or wasn’t paying attention, started to rear-end the vehicles, basically just plowed through the cars and ran into the rear-end of the second semi here.”
Documents obtained by NBC5 Investigates from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, show that Pankiv’s company, Illini State Trucking Company of Hammond, has been involved in nine ther crashes in the last two years, four of them with injuries, and one fatal.
In that fatal crash in December of 2013, a 59-year-old St. Clair County woman was killed, and the driver of the truck was cited for driving while impaired “by illness or other cause.”
The federal records indicate Illini State has been cited 34 times in the last 24 months for violations relating to drivers hours of service, including at least 7 citations for driving past the legal eight hour limit.
No one from the Illini Trucking wanted to comment when contacted Friday. But in a statement, the company said, “We want to extend our sympathies and condolences to the families of those killed in this tragic accident. We are currently conducting an investigation, to gather facts as well.”