Sinkhole shuts down interstate, precedes fatal 5-vehicle pileup in Southern Indiana

Sinkhole shuts down interstate, precedes fatal 5-vehicle pileup in Southern Indiana

May 23, 2019– Mary Greeley News – A sinkhole opened on Interstate 265 in Southern Indiana early Wednesday morning, diverting rush-hour traffic and leading to a five-vehicle crash that left two people dead and three people hospitalized.

The sinkhole was reported by Indiana State Police just before 6 a.m. on the eastbound side of I-265 in Floyd County between Charlestown Road and Interstate 65. The hole, which would grow large enough to swallow a car as crews worked to repair it, caused police to shut down that part of the interstate and divert traffic onto Charlestown Road.

The crash occurred shortly after 8 a.m., state police said, as traffic slowed on I-265 when drivers came upon the detour. An International DuraStar work truck collided with the rear of a Chevrolet pickup, causing a chain reaction, state police said.

The Chevy pickup hit a maroon Ford F-150 pickup, which struck a white Ford pickup hauling a trailer loaded with a mini-excavator, which then struck a Ford Fiesta, the police said.

Douglas E. Borders, 42, of Scottsburg, who was driving the maroon F-150, and his passenger, Christina M. Coy, 36, also of Scottsburg, were pronounced dead at the scene by the Floyd County Coroner’s Office, the state police said.

Robert Schultz, 39, and Myra Schultz, 40, of Elizabeth, who were in the Chevy pickup, were taken to University of Louisville Hospital. The driver of the Fiesta, Maria Bernabe, 28, of New Albany, was taken to Baptist Floyd, police said. Their injuries were not considered life-threatening, state police Sgt. Carey Huls said.

Natalie Garrett, media relations director for the Indiana Department of Transportation, said the sinkhole was expected to be filled sometime Wednesday night.

There was no immediate word on the cause of the sinkhole, but the limestone bedrock underneath the soil in the area, called karst, makes the area prone to the craters.

Lee Florea, the assistant director for research with the Indiana Geological and Water Survey out of Indiana University, said sinkholes occur when there are voids in the earth’s subsurface and the material above sinks into it.

The limestone bedrock interacts with acidity in the soil, mixes with water and creates cavities.

He said that 55% of Kentucky has limestone underneath, and it extends into Indiana. Florea said Floyd County has a lot of it.

Kent Barrow, Floyd County’s emergency management director, said his office didn’t have specific data on how common sinkholes have been in Floyd County.

The I-265 sinkhole comes just two months after a massive hole closed the Louisville Zoo for days in March. That area also has a lot of limestone bedrock.

Florea said filling sinkholes “is not always the best strategy.”

He said sometimes filing in a sinkhole makes people forget the hole was there, which he sees as just delaying the effect and not fixing the problem. He said geologists and engineers should work together to ensure long-term solutions.

Quick fixes may last years or not long at all, he said. It’s “unpredictable.”

Mary Greeley News
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