“They were like bumper cars.” That’s how a Fairborn Ohio man on his way home from a Florida vacation described a chain-reaction crash on Interstate 75 this morning. His group was traveling north on a 15-hour road-trip up I-75 from a Florida vacation. The group had seen frequent snow, but roads were fine until they hit an icy bridge deck just south of Union Center Boulevard early this morning.
Thomas Higgins, 23, said his girlfriend was driving the last leg of the journey home. “It really looked like the road was just wet,” he said. “We were going 50-60 mph and it looked wet, but it was ice. It was so slick. Cars were spinning, sliding and hitting the wall and hitting other cars.” In what he called the scariest moments of his life, the car Higgins was riding in began to slide.
It narrowly missed hitting a tractor-trailer and other vehicles as it was sliding out of control. Higgins said his girlfriend was steering into the slide, which took them off the left side of the road onto the rumble strips in the shoulder. He said they could see a demolished black SUV in the median and the vehicle he was riding in narrowly avoided hitting a person laying in the high-speed lane.
“We pulled over to tell a firefighter about the man, and I called 911,” he said. Higgins told the dispatcher it looked like one of the victims had been ejected from his vehicle and had been hit by a number of vehicles as they navigated the accident area. Higgins told the dispatcher cars were crashing into each other, and his vehicle turned around about 180 degrees. “It was scary,” he said. “I have never seen anything like that.” Rodney J. Bartleson Jr, 34, and Marvin Eugene Hunter, 43, both died in the crash, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
Officials said both men were from Cincinnati. Three vehicles collided in the incident, but the highway patrol has not released more details about how the crash occurred. Snow squalls tangled traffic throughout the region Thursday. An overturned semi tractor-trailer blocked all lanes of northbound Interstate 71 at Fields Ertel Road in Sycamore Township for more than an hour early in the morning. Across the river, a multi-vehicle crash shut down southbound Interstate 71/75 at Burlington Pike just after 7 a.m. Eastbound Interstate 275 at Winton Road in Forest Park was shut down twice. I-275 was also closed in both directions near AA Highway in Kentucky, and a car overturned nearly the Licking River just before 7:30 a.m. Boone County schools in Kentucky delayed the start of classes two hours due to the weather.
By noon, the snow had passed through the region. The weather is expected to clear up Thursday night. The National Weather Service predicted mostly sunny conditions with temperatures reaching the mid-40s both Friday and Saturday.