Mt. Vernon Register-News

February 6, 2014

Accidents shut down interstate

The Register-News

---- — INA — Three separate accidents in the southbound lanes of Interstate 57 at or near mile post 82 in Jefferson County resulted in a traffic logjam Tuesday night, including one accident involving an Ina Police Department squad car.

A semi driven by Barrington Wilson, 22, of Stroudsburg, Pa., overturned on the snow-packed roadway. Wilson, who was not injured, was ticketed for driving too fast for conditions. That accident happened around 7:20 p.m. at mile post 81.5.

An Ina police officer was assisting with traffic as a result of the first incident. He was outside of his vehicle and his vehicle was stationary on the left shoulder. A semi driven by 53-year-old Mirsad Hadzalic of Holland, Mich., struck the rear of the Ina squad car after losing control on the snow and ice covered roadway, according to an Illinois State Police report. Hadzalic was charged with driving too fast for conditions and failure to yield to a stationary emergency vehicle. That accident happened around 8 p.m., according to Illinois State Police. As a result of Tuesday's accident, the Ina Police Department has no operable vehicles. An officer was involved in an accident Friday night near Good Samaritan Regional Health Center when it collided with an ambulance.

"We're down to no cars. We're working with insurance companies and trying to get another car up on the road as soon as possible," said Ina Chief of Police Travis Allen. "The car that got hit by the ambulance was our patrol car, and the one last night was an unmarked car, which was my car. The guys have been using it to patrol."

Allen said the department was called for assistance to the interstate by the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office. He said the department does not routinely patrol the interstate, but provides assistance when needed.

"While our main focus is on the villages of Ina and Bonnie, there are times we get called out to the interstate. There's just no way around it," Allen said. "The state has a limited budget and resources, and when they need assistance, we offer our services."

An insurance adjustor was expected to examine the latest damaged squad car on Wednesday, and Allen said he is hopeful the department will be equipped to handle calls today.

"We're grounded at least for today (Wednesday). We're looking for resources, and we're confident we'll be up and going again Thursday to serve the community's needs," Allen said.

A third accident Tuesday night involved two semis, including one hauling cars, about one mile north of the first and second accidents. According to ISP, Zacharia A. Kofski, 27, of Richmond, Ind., had slowed for the traffic backup and was rear-ended by a semi driven by Patricio Melendez Arrieta, 52, of El Paso, Texas. Arrieta was charged with driving too fast for conditions.

Kofski received minor injuries and was taken to Good Samaritan Regional Health Center.

City and county police received a steady stream of accident calls when the snow started falling in the Jefferson County shortly after noon on Tuesday. No major injuries were reported.

The area picked up about four inches of snow overnight and flurries were still falling Wednesday morning. Roads to the south of the Benton area were covered with sleet and ice, according to road condition reports.