UPDATE: Arkansas truck driver charged with DUI in 5-vehicle crash on I-57

UPDATE: Arkansas truck driver charged with DUI in 5-vehicle crash on I-57

UPDATE, 3:30 p.m. Wednesday: 

PESOTUM — A 41-year-old Arkansas man was charged Wednesday with two counts of aggravated driving under the influence in a five-vehicle crash Tuesday afternoon on Interstate 57.

In announcing the charges, Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz said Jess C. Plunkett was driving a semitrailer truck north on I-57 shortly before 2 p.m. when he rear-ended three vehicles and the trailer of another truck.

Those vehicles were stopped about 2 miles south of Pesotum because another truck had stalled in the highway, state police said.

One victim, who was taken to Carle Foundation Hospital, had broken vertebrae and required surgery. Another was taken to Carle and released. A third went to the hospital on her own, according to Rietz.

In interviews with Illinois State Police, Plunkett admitted to “smoking cannabis and snorting crushed pills in Memphis prior to the crash,” Rietz said.

State troopers arrested Plunkett on a preliminary charge of misdemeanor DUI, Rietz said, but her office determined the injuries were serious enough to file felony charges.

If convicted, Plunkett faces up to 12 years in prison, Rietz said.

She said he had a prior conviction for driving under the influence in Joplin, Mo., in 1998.

Plunkett was arraigned Wednesday, and Judge John Kennedy set bond at $200,000. He’s due back in court May 17 for a probable-cause hearing.

As traffic was backed up for that five-vehicle crash, another fiery crash happened involving three vehicles.

Andrew Bergan, 31, of Champaign was in a car that was hit in the rear shortly before 2 p.m. while he was stopped in traffic caused by the five-vehicle crash, according to Master Sgt. Heather Apperson.

His car caught fire, and three motorists and an Illinois State Trooper helped pull him out. At least three area fire departments responded.

Bergan was taken to an area hospital for life-threatening injuries, state police said. His condition was unavailable.

Brandon Boyd, 35, of Brownsville, Tenn., was driving the truck that rear-ended Bergan’s car, which then struck another car carrying Amanda Drummond, 40, and Megan Drummond, 18, both of Mattoon, police said.

The Drummonds were taken to Carle Foundation Hospital for non-life-threatening injuries and were treated and released, according to Carle spokeswoman Jamie Mullin.

Boyd was ticketed for failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident.

Seat belts were worn by everyone involved, state police said.

The crashes Tuesday afternoon shut down parts of I-57 for several hours.

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UPDATE, 8 p.m.:

PESOTUM — A total of eight vehicles were involved in two crashes leading to multiple injuries on Tuesday on Interstate 57 in rural Pesotum.

According to a state police report, at 1:56 p.m., five vehicles crashed in the northbound lane of I-57 at milepost 218, about 2 miles south of Pesotum.

A second crash that took place just south of the first incident involved another three vehicles.

Trooper Tracy Lillard said the northbound lanes of Interstate 57 were closed for more than four hours, and the southbound lanes were closed for two hours.

No information was available Tuesday night on the number of people injured, who they were, their conditions or whether any tickets were issued.

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Original story, published 2:39 p.m.:

PESOTUM — State police responded to multiple crashes around 2 p.m. Tuesday on Interstate 57 south of Pesotum.

I-57 northbound is shut down at milepost 218, Master Sgt. Mark Holley said, and traffic is being rerouted at exit 212 near Tuscola onto Route 45 to the 220 entrance ramp near Pesotum. It is expected to be closed until about 6:30 p.m.

I-57 southbound is down to one lane, Holley said.

— Ben Zigterman

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