INDIANAPOLIS — A tire blowout may have caused a van carrying passengers from an Amish community to flip over on a highway, killing three children and two adults, police said Monday. Eleven others were injured in the crash.
Police said no other vehicles were involved Sunday when the southbound van veered out of control on Interstate 69, entered a grassy median and overturned, coming to rest in the northbound lanes near Muncie, about 50 miles northeast of Indianapolis. The roof of the vehicle was shorn away.
Witnesses saw the rear left tire on the van blow out before the crash occurred, and police said in a statement that a preliminary investigation of the tires confirmed those observations.
It was not clear at first how many people had been riding in the van, as survivors gave conflicting counts of 15, 16 or 17 passengers, Indiana State Police Sgt. Rod Russell said. Police and other rescuers searched for additional injured people until it was clear all people in the van were accounted for.
“It’s controlled chaos, is what it is, when you have a situation like this,” with ejections and multiple victims, Russell said.
The victims hailed from Amish communities in Indiana, police said. Troopers believed that the van may have been taking people home after a church function.
Amish people generally shun modern conveniences but sometimes enlist non-Amish as drivers.
Traffic in both directions was stopped as authorities used the highway to land medical helicopters. Northbound lanes of I-69 did not reopen until more than four hours after the crash. Southbound lanes reopened about two hours after the crash.
Susie Ingras saw the crash and went to help the victims.
“We got up there and we had three bodies that were just right by us,” she said. “It’s just heartbreaking, especially them being so young.”
The crash occurred about 20 miles from the site of an April 2006 collision between a Taylor University van and a semitrailer rig that killed four students and a university employee.
The crash resulted in widespread attention after an identity mixup in which an injured student turned out to be a woman originally believed to have died in the accident.
In April, four Amish riding in a pickup were among eight people killed in a crash on the Indiana Toll Road.
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