OAKWOOD — A semi driver was killed and another motorist was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries in two separate accidents about 45 minutes apart Thursday afternoon near a construction zone on westbound Interstate 74 between Fithian and Oakwood.
Releases from state police said at 2:14 p.m. Thursday, a semitrailer had slowed down for backed-up traffic at mile marker 202, near the single-lane construction zone, when it was rear-ended by van driven by Ronald C. Schaer of Danville. Schaer was taken to an area hospital with life-threatening injuries; the driver of the semi was unhurt. Both were wearing seat belts.
Schaer was ticketed for failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident.
At 2:48 p.m., two other large trucks had slowed down near mile marker 206 because of the backup from the first accident when a third semi, driven by a man whose identification is being withheld pending notification of next of kin, failed to slow down and rear-ended one of the trucks, which rear-ended the one in front of it. The semi that caused the accident then became engulfed in flames, and the driver was pronounced dead at the scene. The other two drivers were unhurt.
In a release, Vermilion County Coroner Jane McFadden said an autopsy on the semi driver is scheduled for Friday. That accident is being investigated by her office, the Illinois State Police and the Oakwood Fire Department.
The second accident caused the westbound lanes of I-74 to be closed for the rest of the night, with state police estimating that they would not reopen until after midnight. Westbound traffic has been diverted to U.S. 150 at the Oakwood exit. The off-ramp from eastbound I-74 at that exit has also been closed until the westbound lanes reopen.