HOOPESTON — A Rossville-area woman was airlifted to a burn center in Chicago on Tuesday morning after a semitrailer crashed into the tractor she was driving on Illinois 1, causing both to catch fire, according to Illinois State Police and local fire department officials.
Wendy E. Gernand, 53, was driving a John Deere tractor that was pulling a tank applicator at 7:35 a.m. Tuesday on Illinois 1 just a few miles south of Hoopeston when a semi slammed into it from behind, according to state police.
Gernand was traveling northbound and trying to turn left onto County Road 3870 North when the semi hit, pushing both of them into the east side of a concrete bridge that carries the highway over a creek. The accident blocked both lanes.
The 1983 Kenworth semi was driven by Roger L. Baldwin, 39, and he had a passenger, Maleesa A. Jones, 24.
Capt. Rod Kaag with the Vermilion County Sheriff's Department came upon the accident scene, and he said a driver who was not involved in the crash was instrumental in helping two of the victims. Kaag said sheriff's deputies and Hoopeston police officers both responded to reroute traffic.
Baldwin and Jones were both rushed to the emergency room at Hoopeston Community Hospital, where they were treated and released. Gernand was also rushed to the Hoopeston emergency room and airlifted to a burn center near Chicago.
Baldwin was ticketed for improper passing at an intersection and having no valid registration.
The accident blocked both lanes of Illinois 1 for hours as firefighters and emergency medical personnel from Hoopeston and Rossville treated victims and fought the fire.
Rossville Fire Department officials said they fought the fire from the south side of the accident and Hoopeston firefighters fought it from the north. A hazmat team and officials with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency also responded, the Rossville fire officials said, because diesel fuel and liquid nitrogen from the farm tank leaked into the waterway.