UPDATE, December 10 2018: On December 8, Joseph Bland surrendered himself to deputies at the Jasper County Detention Center in response to a warrant for his arrest issued in connection to the events of October 10.

Bland posted a $1,500 cash bond at the Detention Center and was released.

UPDATE: The victim in the fatal hit-and-run crash described below has been identified by authorities as 40-year-old Rensselaer woman Melisa Deno.

Police conducted a statewide search for the 18-wheeler; it was located a short time later in St. Louis, MO. The hit-and-run driver was identified as 43-year-old Joseph Bland. Charges against Bland are now pending in the county where the crash happened.

Rensselaer, IN — On October 10, 2018, one person was killed in a hit-and-run accident between a tractor-trailer and a passenger vehicle just south of Rensselaer.

According to authorities from the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office, the crash occurred around 1 p.m. The 18 wheeler was traveling west on State Road 16 when its driver ignored a flashing red stop light at the intersection with U.S. Highway 231. Entering the intersection out of turn, the semi crashed into a vehicle on the north-south highway.

The truck driver fled the scene after the accident, which killed the unnamed driver of the other vehicle. The suspect is currently at large and authorities continue to investigate.

Map of the Area

Commentary

The good news in crashes like is that hit-and-run truck drivers are almost always found eventually. Aside from being too large to ditch or hide easily, modern technology makes it easier to track down where a commercial vehicle was and at what time of day. Authorities will track down that hit-and-run driver, and then we’ll see how hard he or she tries to weasel out of the responsibility for the crash.

Based on the pictures of the accident scene, there’s no plausible way the driver could argue they didn’t see the vehicle they hit, which makes me wonder why they chose to flee. It could be that they simply panicked, but far more likely is that they have something to hide. After all, while there are rare times that drivers just blithely blow through red lights, it’s more common for them to be “off their game” in the forms of distraction, intoxication, or fatigue (or some combination of the three).

Drivers who run think that if they can just “sleep it off” they can make a more compelling argument that they just panicked after making a mistake. In the numerous fatal hit-and-run truck accident cases that our firm has litigated, we’ve been able to use receipts, cell phone data, or even drug tests after the crash to prove that there was something wrong with the driver at the time of the wreck. It is seldom a momentary regrettable choice that leads to crashes like these, but rather a series of negligent behaviors that build up until a terrible, explosive moment.

UPDATE: I’m not going to pat myself on the back too hard for calling that they would find the hit-and-run driver. I’d much rather this never happened in the first place. I’m at least glad that the driver will face consequences for his actions, and that the criminal justice system will have a chance to take appropriate measures.

Time will tell if the rest of my prediction–the bit about how Bland, his employer, and their insurer will try to squirm out of liability for hitting another driver–will come true, but I know which way I’d bet if I were a gambler.

–Grossman Law Offices

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Recent Comments to the Blog

Jason is back to work and is now playing Sled Hockey and wheelchair rugby!! Jason is the strongest and most amazing man! He may nly have 1/2 a leg, but that is ALL he is lacking!! Thanks to prayer and GOD and awsome first responders and Baylor doctors. Jason's wife, Sheila
— Sheila
I'm a former employee. I had brought up this exact scenario and suggested a maintenance procedure that would eliminate the possibility of this type injury. Obviously my warning went unheeded.
— Tophat
I was actually a couple cars back from this wreck, one of the first on the scene, and helped administer CPR on the victims. The truck driver was going way too fast, but it was actually his trailer that swung around and hit the suv, the semi-truck ended in the median.
— Leif Burton
I appreciate how you've commentated on this tragedy--informative, with questions, but not hurtful. I live within 30 mins of this crash site, and I am appalled at the entire situation :(. I can't even begin to understand what could have happened to make this come to fruition, but I will be keeping up with it so I can learn what investigations bring to light about how something awful like this could happen. Rest in peace, Thomas, Carolyn and Carolyn...
— Summer
I am Anthony Siffords daughter. im 13 and i miss my dad i just wanted everyone to know that he is in a better place now and i would to thank everyone for the support. i miss my dad but it was amazing to see how many people had been toughed by my dad god bless thanks for everything...
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I am Rodney Palmer's sister-inlaw. I am amazed and grateful for all the heartfelt wishes and support for our family... It is difficult indeed to put our thoughts into words, but we very much appreciate your kind and helpful words at a time when these things mean so much. Losing someone as special as Rodney has been tough, but knowing the he has touched so many people's lives keeps my sister's strengthens our family.
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My friend Michael was the one who got hit by this train. This is the ONLY article I can find on it!! How is that possible? It happened almost 5 days ago! Thank you for actually caring about us "no name" people. I hope when more information comes in you will post it as soon as you can. Thank you again!! God bless you
— Leslie
Tony was the step Grant father and it's been hard for the whole family but we know he is in a better place now. It's nice to know that people are rasing awareness with my grandfathers story. Thanks, family and friends of Tony Wray.
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Thank you for posting these accident articles on your site. At the company that I work for, e deal with monitoring construction activity and work around trenches and all sorts of construction equipment/vehicles. I sometimes wonder if construction companies have enough safety training to inform employees of how to protect themselves while on the job.
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