Ohio Interstate Pileup Will Take Weeks to Sort Out

January 30, 2013

The voluminous accident report on last week’s southwest Ohio highway pileup won’t be done for several weeks – and it could be years before all the legal issues are sorted out, officials said.

A freak snow squall that came out of nowhere Jan. 21 led to a pileup involving 103 cars, trucks and semi tractor-trailers on westbound Interstate 275 near Cincinnati, involving about 200 drivers and passengers. Twenty-seven people were injured, and a 12-year-old girl was killed when she was struck by a median cable while waiting for help.

Scores of investigators, insurers and lawyers will be involved in a complex interplay to determine exactly what happened, who’s to blame and who will pay for what officials say may be the region’s largest pileup ever.

The injured could be tied up in medical and legal claims that will consume years. And lawsuits are almost certain as injuries are assessed and insurers seek damages.

Hamilton County traffic investigators are spending their days huddled around an 8-foot table, poring over photos, notes and measurements trying to piece together what happened. The final report is expected to be 500 to 700 pages long.

“They will attempt to find the at-fault driver and whether it was one continuous accident or 45 separate accidents,” sheriff’s spokesman Jim Knapp told The Cincinnati Enquirer for a story Monday. “There could be fault on several people’s part. … But I don’t think we’ll ever know.”

Some vehicles were hit 10 or more times. Cars were still crashing at the tail end of the accident as people at the front got out of their cars; sixth-grader Sammy Reagan was killed by a median cable because it was struck by another car.

No citations have been issued in the accident so far, and it could be weeks before that happens. If police don’t assign blame, lawyers say a complicated chain reaction could ensue in civil court as occupants of each vehicle sue the vehicle that hit them.

Similar weather conditions occurred on Interstate 75 north of Cincinnati a short time after the I-275 crashes, causing a 50-car pileup. No one died in that pileup.

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