Investigators now calling IN triple fatal crash "freak accident"


Posted on January 12, 2010 at 6:24 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 12 at 7:42 PM

(WHAS11) - An 11-year-old girl is the only survivor of a crash in southern Indiana that left three others dead.

It happened around 8:30 Monday night on state road 37 north of Orleans in Orange County when a huge steel coil broke loose from a tractor trailer.

Authorities had originally cited the truck driver but are now calling it a freak accident.   

The 11-year-old girl hurt in this accident is in fair condition.

Besides the driver of the semi-truck, she's the only survivor of the crash.

And now the investigation into the cause of the crash has changed.

"This was if not the most, one of the most horrific I've ever seen. There was a debris field more than 500 feet long," says Orange County Sheriff Bill Fullington.

Two vehicles were crushed beyond recognition.

Three people died instantly after a huge steel coil, weighing almost 44,000 pounds, broke loose from a tractor-trailer.

Officials say the driver, 33-year-old Israel Rankin of Paoli, was headed southbound on 37 from Portage to Jeffersonville, when the massive coil suddenly came undone and flew into the opposite lane.

"There was essentially no room for the drivers coming northbound to go," says Bill Fullington.

Initially, the Orange County Sheriff's Department said,  according to a state police report, that Rankin carried too much weight on the trailer; an estimated 4,000 pounds over the weight limit.

“State police commercial division vehicle was on scene and they issued him a citation for exceeding the working load limit for tie downs," says Fullington.

But that all changed after a state police inspector told WHAS11 News that the semi truck was not over the weight limit.

Initially WHAS11 was also told that Rankin was issued a citation but that was amended as well.

Now investigators are calling this a freak accident.

The impact killed the driver of the Chevy Aveo, 41-year-old Michael Daugherty of Mitchell, Indiana.

11-year-old Mackenzie Taylor was rescued from the Chevy S-10 pickup and flown to Kosair's but her brother and his girlfriend didn't make it.

The driver, 22-year-old Zachary Staggs of Bedford and 21-year-old Shannon Steele from Jasper both died in the crash.

The little girl remains in fair condition and family members did not want to talk to the media at this time.