A five-vehicle accident on Interstate 65 in Lafayette, Indiana, killed two people, including a well-known basketball coach. The crash occurred as traffic was stopped for a previous accident at around 3:20 p.m. on Tuesday, December 5. Authorities are investigating the crash, which has increased calls for truck safety on well traveled interstates and concerns about fatal underride crashes.
I-65 Crash Involved Three Semi-Trucks
Involved in the fatal Lafayette truck crash were three semi-trucks, a passenger car and a box truck. Southbound traffic had stopped for a previous accident when a box truck approached the stalled traffic. The truck’s driver, Joseph Gais, 62, slowed down his box truck, but the semi-truck behind him, driven by Anthony J. Dick, 31, did not slow down and crashed into the back of the box truck. The box truck hit a Cadillac CTS, pushing the CTS under one of the two semi-trucks in front of it, killing both Marvin L. Rea, 49, and 34-year-old Kelli Nicole Bradley. Both were occupants in the Cadillac.
Accidents in which vehicles are pushed under semi-trucks or their trailers are known as underride crashes. Safety advocates and experts have long fought to ensure semi-trucks have proper underride guards to protect other motorists from underride accidents, which can be particularly fatal. Though many trucks have rear underride guards, a recent study suggested they are not strong enough to prevent underrides in highway crashes.
Organizations such as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and lawmakers including Senator Chuck Schumer have argued repeatedly that underride crashes could be entirely or nearly eliminated if proper safety laws were enacted. Although there are laws requiring tractor trailers to be equipped with rear guards, those guards are not effective at preventing underride crashes, with some failing even at 35 miles per hour.
Residents Concerned About Semi-Truck Safety on Interstate
In an open letter published by NWI, writer Steve Hanlon argued about the dangers of Interstate 65, especially related to semi-trucks.
“Sports writers, like basketball people, drive this highway all the time,” Hanlon wrote. “There are too many semi trucks driving way too fast and too aggressively. How many times will innocent people get crushed by out-of-control semis? Something must be done about this. Is the state house in Indianapolis listening to these cries? And tears?”
Lafayette Truck Crash Victims Remembered as Respected Basketball Coach and Loving Teacher
Marvin L. Rea was a highly respected basketball coach who led the Bowman High School basketball team to state championships twice. Colleagues and friends described Rea, who began coaching at Lighthouse in the past season, as a legend in the basketball world.
“The kids loved him,” said James Scott, who worked as an assistant for Rea at Bowman. “He was a community activist. He meant a lot to a lot of people. He was just a great individual. I’ve been with this guy since we were in third grade. It’s like losing my little brother. It’s a terrible end to a great story and great life. He is going to be missed by the community.”
In both 2010 and 2013, Bowman won state titles. The team was also state runners-up in 2012 and 2014.
John Boyd, who coaches Michigan City and is a friend of Rea’s, said the people in Gary, Indiana, viewed Rea as an icon.
“You are just never prepared for anything like this,” Boyd said. “He had a great legacy. Those young kids are really losing something special.”
Hanlon also wrote about the impact Rea had on high school basketball, noting that taking his teams to state championship games in four out of five years in three different classes was an incredible achievement.
“I hope the basketball powers that be in Indiana understand that Rea needs to be honored in a way the greats deserve,” Hanlon wrote. “This has nothing to do with this horrific crash, but what he did in gyms all over the state.”
Kelli Nicole Bradley was also killed in the crash. She taught seventh grade at Joseph L. Block Middle School in East Chicago. The principal at her school said her students adored her, frequently naming her their favorite teacher.
“She was just a beautiful person inside and out,” said Principal Dee-Etta Wright. “Yesterday, I heard so many students constantly say, she was my favorite teacher.”
The school will hold a memorial for Bradley. In the meantime, students have been creating posters, letters and other mementos for the memorial service.
Investigators Looking Into Fatal Indiana Truck Crash
The cause of the truck crash is under investigation, though early reports indicate the driver of the semi-truck that failed to stop may have been distracted. Rea and Bradley died at the scene of the accident. The other drivers involved in the crash suffered either minor injuries or no injuries at all.