Indiana Toll Road crash claims Chicago victims, including a child

October 28, 2011

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(Indiana State Police/AP)
Firemen and police survey the wreckage of a fatal accident on the Indiana Toll Road Thursday night.

The Indiana State Police are continuing to investigate a deadly accident on the Indiana Toll Road that happened around 7 p.m. Chicago time Thursday.

The crash claimed the lives of seven of the 10 people who were in the 1998 Toyota Sienna minivan traveling from Chicago to New Jersey for a funeral. The names of the victims have not been released.

“The Indiana State Police continue to piece together the tragic events that transpired last evening,” Indiana State Police Sgt. Trent Smith told WBEZ on Friday.

Smith said the investigation so far has confirmed that the driver of the minivan struck a deer in the driving lane shortly before his vehicle was rear ended by a 2006 Freightliner semi pulling a trailer.  Smith said the van was heading east on the Indiana Toll Road in Bristol, Indiana, east of the City of Elkhart.

Seven of the van’s occupants died at the scene, including an infant. One male survivor in the van was taken to Elkhart General Hospital where he is listed in stable condition.  Another man and a woman were both airlifted to South Bend Memorial Hospital and are in critical condition. 

Smith said police have been able to talk to a male survivor in the van who was sitting in the front passenger seat. Smith said the survivor said he remembers the van hitting a deer, which deployed the van’s airbags, but remembers very little after that.

The driver of the semi, 24-year-old Jesse F. Donovan of Johnston, Rhode Island, was taken by ambulance to Elkhart General Hospital. The truck that he was driving is owned by Roehl Transport Inc. out of Marshfield, Wisconsin.  Donovan was treated for minor injuries and later released.  A preliminary test for alcohol came back negative.

“Investigators are trying to determine the speed of the van and its location just prior to it being struck by the semi.  It is currently unknown why Donovan was unable to avoid hitting the van,” Smith said. 

Police say the victims were originally from Ecuador and that they are all related, but from different families. It is believed that they have been living in the Chicago area for several years.