Jacqueline Luczak, Eric Klein Killed, Five Injured in Crash on IN Toll Road in South Bend
UPDATE (June 6, 2022): Reports have identified several of the victims of this crash.
- Jacqueline Luczak, 82, was a passenger in a Geo hit by the truck and suffered fatal injuries. The Geo's three other occupants--Donna Tirva, 60, Lena Tirva, 21, and Delilah Tirva, 17--were seriously injured and were taken to an area hospital.
- Eric Klein, 45, was driving a Jeep that caught on fire after it was hit. Klein was pronounced dead at the scene.
- Dolores Kallas, 86, was a passenger in a Cadillac involved in the crash. She was transported to a hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.
- John Albrizio, 48, was driving a Chevy pickup that overturned after being hit. Albrizio received minor injuries and was taken to a hospital.
South Bend, IN — June 1, 2022, two people were killed and five others were injured when an 18-wheeler hit slowed traffic on the Indiana Toll Road in South Bend.
According to reports the incident happened around 3:00 p.m. on the toll road, part of Interstate 80/90, near mile marker 71. Preliminary investigation suggests an International 18-wheeler failed to reduce speed as it approached traffic near construction and crashed into a column of slowed vehicles. At least one of those vehicles caught fire after the impact.
Two people died in the crash and five others were transported to area hospitals. The truck driver, 26-year-old Chasen Thompson, was not seriously injured. He consented to a blood draw as part of the investigation, which is ongoing.
No further information is currently available.
Commentary on Multi-Vehicle Accident on Indiana Toll Road in South Bend
A big rig tends to hit slowed or stopped traffic for one or more of just a handful of reasons like speeding, following too closely, or driver distraction. None of those have to be involved in the Indiana crash, but in most of these situations it's ultimately found the accident was avoidable and the truck driver just made a serious mistake. While there are still some missing details about the toll road crash, that seems to be the case here as well.
Of course, even if reports say the trucker was at fault that's not necessarily set in stone. In fact, trucking companies are pretty notorious for heavily disputing that their drivers did anything wrong. I suspect the company behind the South Bend driver would reach for any explanation they thought might take them off the hot seat, no matter what he might have been up to just before crashing into the victims. We've worked on many similar cases where truck drivers plowed into stopped vehicles while messing with their radios, reaching for something on the floor or between seats, digging in coolers, or even watching movies on their phones instead of looking at the road--to say nothing of the ones that were too intoxicated to operate their trucks.
Victims often think they have those drivers dead-to-rights when it's time to seek help, but even when their sins seemed clear on paper their employers insisted something else was to blame: Sudden and surprising mechanical or brake failures, sun glare, the victims stopped too suddenly for the driver to react...the excuses go on and on in an effort to lessen or avoid liability, and without clear evidence and the right tools to deal with them they can be frustratingly effective.
The burden of disproving those defenses falls to the victims and their families, and much of the evidence needed to do that is found with either the truck driver or the truck itself. However, the driver and his employer won't simply hand any damning information over, so plaintiffs often work with independent investigators and other allies to obtain crucial evidence the company won't share of its own free will. Backing up a claim with indisputable proof is key for getting victims and families the answers and help they need and deserve.