I-75 repairs will take days after deadly wrong-way crash

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I-75 repairs will take days after deadly wrong-way crash

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Ty Greenlees
Emergency repair work continued I-75 in Dayton on Monday after a fiery fatal crash closed the highway on Sunday, April 30. A wrong-way driver crashed, head-on, with a gasoline tanker that caught fire. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

Police are still trying to reconstruct the events that led to a fiery head-on crash on Interstate 75 on Sunday between a car travelling the wrong way and a tanker full of gasoline.

On Monday, transportation and environmental crews worked to mitigate the fallout from the violent collision. Road repairs will continue through Thursday, officials estimated.

The driver of the car, identified as 30-year-old Andrew Brunsman from Beavercreek, was killed and the truck driver suffered minor injuries in the collision that happened at 4:41 p.m. and sent plumes of black smoke and large balls of flames shooting into the sky just north of downtown for more than an hour.

Once the fire was out, concerns remained about damage that may have been done to the highway and about flaming gasoline that leaked into the storm sewer system.

Ohio Department of Transportation cameras captured the collision and subsequent explosion of the tanker.

The video shows a small, light-colored vehicle travelling the wrong way on southbound I-75 as it crosses over the Great Miami River and Riverview Avenue. The car was travelling in the fourth lane from the median. As it went around a curve and passed the southbound entrance ramp from Main Street, it collided with the tanker truck.

It is unclear from the video what lane of travel the collision initially occurred in, but the truck traveled several hundred yards further, with flames and smoke visible, before coming to a stop in the far left lane. The truck driver escaped the wreckage and ran across the highway lanes before the rig exploded.

A representative from Reynolds & Reynolds in Kettering confirmed Monday that Brunsman was an employee there. Greene County court records show that he was married in March of 2016.

Multiple 911 callers reported seeing the car driving the wrong way just before the collision.

Police said the investigation is ongoing and includes a crash reconstruction unit, evaluation of physical evidence and interviews with witnesses. Officers said the full investigation will take several weeks to complete.

Anyone who witnessed the crash and has not yet been in contact with Dayton Police is asked to call Detective Derric McDonald at 937-333-1141.

All but two lanes of the highway were reopened by Monday morning, with traffic shifted to the right.

ODOT officials said there was no structural damage to the highway, and they were working quickly to replace pavement damaged.

“Just the extreme heat from that crash and that fire, that can do a lot of damage even to pavement, and so they have to go in where places are possibly crumbling, and they want to go in and remove that damaged pavement,” said Mandi Dillon, public information officer for ODOT.

INTERACTIVE MAP: Wrong-way crashes in the area

Crews were working on a 300-foot long section of pavement and removing three inches deep. They hoped to have the inside lanes that were most damaged fixed by Tuesday, following by a shift in traffic so they can repair the outside lanes.

“Hopefully by Thursday morning rush hour, their goal is to have all three lanes of southbound open again and then at that time the ramps from Route 4 to southbound and Main Street to southbound would reopen as well,” Dillon said.

The inside shoulders, both northbound and southbound, will remain closed for some time until repairs can be made to the concrete barrier. Those repairs will likely be made using nighttime lane closures in the future, Dillon said.

There is no estimate for how much the repairs will cost the state, which finished a complete rebuild of that section of interstate just last year.

The Ohio EPA said workers found no continuing danger to the adjacent McPherson Town Historic District, where neighbors the day before had witnessed smoke pouring from storm drains and been told to call 911 if they had fumes in their homes.

“The fire (in the sewer system) was extinguished before the fire department departed the scene yesterday,” Dina Pierce, media coordinator for EPA Southwest District. “The fire department also flushed the storm sewers to push out the gasoline.”

Overnight, an environmental contractor ventilated the storm sewers, and that contractor will continue to do air monitoring for fumes, she said.

The city’s drinking water sources were not affected, Pierce said.

Water levels in the river were high from weekend storms when the crash occurred, so the storm sewers shouldn’t have discharged much.

“When the river level falls, the contractor will contain and recover any fuel that discharges from the storm sewer outfall,” Pierce said.

The City of Dayton’s Department of Water Division of Environmental Management referred questions about the sewer cleanup to a city spokesperson who did not return requests for comment.

The Dayton and Springfield areas have seen other fatal wrong-way crashes on local interstates in recent years, including the state’s deadliest crash of 2016, which happened in February on I-75 northbound, just north of where Sunday’s crash took place.

James Pohlabeln, 61, was intoxicated behind the wheel for the second time in 48 hours on Feb. 13, when he drove the wrong way on I-75 and struck a sports utility vehicle killing four young friends: Kyle Canter, 23, of New Carlisle; Earl Miller II, 27, of New Carlisle; Vashti Nicole Brown, 29, of Dayton; and Devin Bachmann, 26, of Huber Heights.

Pohlabeln had reportedly threatened suicide before. The crash was one of several in the area in early 2016 involving wrong-way drivers possibly on suicide missions.

Neighbors in the area watched the aftermath of Sunday’s fatal crash from porches and the river levee.

“When I looked out, the smoke was just blazing out and the fire boomed again,” said Michael Wolfe, who watched from his apartment window at the Asbury Apartment building overlooking the highway.

“I said, ‘Lord, what done happened here,’” he said.

“My son and I were sitting on the porch up here and we heard a blast, maybe like a shotgun blast, over that way” said Patrick Jones. “It was behind that wall, but you could feel the heat from it,” he said.

Ohio 3rd in nation for serious hazmat transportation accidents

A Dayton Daily News investigation in 2014 showed accidents involving transportation of some hazardous materials increased dramatically since 2005, and Ohio was third worst in the country for these incidents, like the gasoline tanker crash and explosion that happened on I-75 Sunday.

A new look at the data show’s Ohio still ranks third worst behind only Texas and California.

Truck traffic accounted for four out of five of the serious accidents, according to the United States Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

There have been 602 incidents deemed serious in Ohio since 1987. The majority — 528 — are highway accidents. And 42 of those serious highway incidents took place since July 1, 2014.

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