Crash halts traffic on Interstate

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Gina Duwe
Thursday, June 27, 2013

— A military wrecker crashed through the concrete barrier of the Interstate 90/39 bridge late Thursday morning, leaving the cab and its two occupants hanging over Highway 26/Milton Avenue.

The driver got himself out of the vehicle but a female passenger was still in the cab when Janesville firefighters arrived, Acting Lt. Chris Lukas said.

“She was pretty scared and didn't want to come out,” he said.

The accident involving the wrecker, a semitrailer, a military Humvee and a car happened just after 11 a.m. in the eastbound lanes, leaving motorists in the area tied up in traffic for hours.

The driver of the wrecker, Eluterio Medina of Decatur, Ill., and the passenger, Samantha Miller, 19, of Galesburg, Ill., were treated and released at Mercy Hospital and Trauma Center in Janesville. Authorities had conflicting information about whether Medina was 30 or 32.

The accident occurred when a car merging onto I-90/39 from southbound Highway 26/Milton Avenue came to a stop at the top of the ramp, according to a news release from the Wisconsin State Patrol. A Humvee in the right lane hit the brakes, as did a military HEMTT wrecker, which swerved left.

A semitrailer behind the wrecker also went into the left lane, where it made contact with the wrecker. The semi struck the bridge wall on the left shoulder, and the wrecker swerved to the right, colliding with the bridge wall on the right shoulder. The wrecker went through the wall, knocking debris onto northbound Highway 26/Milton Avenue, where it damaged a vehicle, according to the State Patrol.

The semi driver, Leonard L. Cleveland, 55, and Humvee driver, Michael D. Rynearson, 21, were not injured.

When firefighters arrived, they found Miller in the cab, where she wanted to stay until the vehicle could be removed from edge, Lukas said.

Firefighters made a quick harness out of a piece of webbing to secure Lukas, who stood on top of the concrete barrier and opened the door.

“I put my arm around her just so I'd have a hold of her if she did fall,” he said.

Miller was able to climb on the truck and get down on the barrier, where Lukas could assist her onto the roadway.

“She was obviously pretty scared and shaken up,” he said.

Both southbound lanes of the interstate were blocked and traffic was rerouted for several hours. One lane on I-90/39 and Highway 26/Milton Avenue remained closed into the evening while county crews repaired the overpass.

“There's a pretty big, gaping hole of where the unit went through the wall,” Rock County Public Works Director Ben Coopman said, “so there's a concern about safety if someone were to go through that same hole.”

Coopman and a certified state bridge inspector examined the bridge.

“Basically the only damage was to the wall and a little to the floor of the bridge,” Coopman said. “It didn't do anything structurally.”

Last updated: 7:55 am Monday, July 29, 2013

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