A New Whiteland man who was killed after slamming into the back of a semitrailer may not have braked at all before the accident, police said.
Michael L. Otte, 56, died in the accident on Interstate 65 about a mile south of the Taylorsville exit Tuesday night, according to Indiana State Police. Otte may have been distracted at the time and didn’t see that traffic had stopped in the roadway because of another accident about a mile north, police said.
Police aren’t sure how fast Otte was traveling when he hit the rear of the trailer, but the impact was forceful enough to rip the engine from the car and throw it to the side of the road, Indiana State Police Sgt. Noel Houze said.
Traffic was stopped or moving slowly in the northbound lanes of the interstate about 8 p.m. when the accident happened, Houze said. A truck accident about a mile north had caused the backup. A semitrailer driver, Michael Vogel, 53, of Rockford, Ill., had turned on his emergency flashers and was stopped in traffic when Otte’s car struck the back of his rig, according to state police.
Police said Otte was likely distracted because the highway is flat and straight in that area, allowing drivers to see long distances. Based on the damage in the crash, Houze said, Otte may have been traveling close to the speed limit of 70 mph and never saw that traffic had stopped.
“You figure at 60 mph, that’s 88 feet per second. It wouldn’t take any more than you spill your coffee in your lap or glance down to change the radio,” Houze said.
About 20 percent of all accidents investigated by Indiana State Police are secondary crashes caused when drivers collide in traffic because of a different wreck. Those secondary accidents account for 18 percent of road fatalities, according to Indiana State Police.
Police and firefighters were cleaning up an accident near the Taylorsville exit that happened about 6:15 p.m. Two trucks collided, causing minor injuries to both drivers and a fuel spill. The German Township Fire Department was cleaning up about 100 gallons of diesel fuel that had spilled in the median when they were called to the fatal accident, deputy chief Matt Lynch said.
Police closed the interstate at State Road 46 for about two hours after the second crash, Lynch said.
Otte graduated from Seymour High School in 1976. He was the store manager of Petsense pet store in Seymour and was a district manager for the company. He previously worked as a manager of a Petsense store in Edinburgh.
Wanda Taylor, assistant manager at the Seymour store, worked with Otte for more than seven years.
“He was your boss, but if you had something to say, he’d listen,” Taylor said. “He was always the kind of person you’d want to work for.”