The State Patrol is looking for the driver of a black Volkswagen Jetta hatchback in connection with an Interstate 90/39 crash on July 6 that blocked lanes in Janesville for more than 11 hours.
The accident report says the Jetta stopped “abruptly” in the left-hand southbound lane around 1:39 p.m. that Tuesday, causing eight other drivers to crash into each other as they tried to avoid hitting the Jetta.
Four of the vehicles caught fire, including a semitrailer truck. Several drivers and passengers reported minor injuries and were taken to nearby SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital-Janesville.
“Traffic camera footage showed Unit 9 (the Jetta) slowly driving away from the scene with its hazard lights activated,” the report says.
State Patrol Sgt. Jason Holtz said the case is in the hands of an accident reconstruction unit. He said he is not sure how far the investigation will proceed, but there is potential for traffic citations or criminal charges.
Holtz said there was no way to tell why the Jetta stopped in the southbound lanes of the Interstate, about one-half mile north of Mount Zion Avenue.
The accident report says a Toyota Sienna van driven by Melissa J. Buckles of Stafford, Virginia, avoided crashing into the Jetta, and a Honda CR-V driven by Jade H. Buckles, 17, also of Stafford, Virginia, then stopped in the left lane, when a third vehicle—investigators could not determine which one—hit the CR-V, pushing it into the Sienna, which was pushed into the Jetta.
A semitrailer truck driven by Kevin T. Guseck, 36, of Peshtigo, and owned by Double K Express then arrived in the left lane.
Guseck was unable to stop in time and hit a pickup truck driven by Derek M. Wooderson, 34, of Columbus, Georgia, which had stopped.
Guseck was cited for following too closely.
Wooderson and his four passengers suffered “suspected minor” injuries and were taken to the hospital. The passengers were Stacy A. Wooderson 33; Heath R. Wooderson, 4; Ava J. Wooderson, 9; and Pierce L. Wooderson, 6, all of the same address.
The semi continued into the right lane, catching fire and jackknifing as it hit the Sienna.
Fires then broke out in a Honda van driven by Alaa Mustafa Ali Aquel, 46, of Eagan, Minnesota; Wooderson’s pickup and a Nissan Pathfinder SUV driven by Daniel M. Koch, 58, of Huntley, Illinois, according to the report.
Koch and his three passengers, all of the same address, were taken to the hospital with “suspected minor” injuries. Passengers were Leslie M. Koch, 51; Allison M. Koch, 19; and Emily G. Koch, 16.
The semi’s trailer also hit a Ford Escape SUV driven by Steven R. King of Union City, Tennessee, as the semi came to a stop in the right lane, pushing the Escape along the right-side concrete barrier.
Richard K. Ohlinger, 75, of Rochelle, Illinois, said his Lincoln Nautilus SUV was hit in the rear, causing him to swerve into the semitrailer. The Lincoln then hit the concrete barriers on the left side of the road and rolled onto its roof.
Ohlinger was not cited, but the report said he was following too closely and failed to control the vehicle. He and his passenger, Linda L. Ohlinger, 75, same address, suffered “suspected minor” injuries and were taken to the hospital.
Aquel, the driver of the Honda minivan, saw the crash happening ahead of him but couldn’t avoid hitting Wooderson’s pickup. The Honda then caught fire.
Aquel suffered a “suspected minor injury” and was taken to the hospital. The report said Aquel was following too closely and lost control but he was not cited.
The crash sent traffic onto Janesville-area streets and highways until early the following morning.
The incident was the second multivehicle crash on the Interstate in Janesville in two days.