RANTOUL — A semi-trailer tractor carrying 93 feeder calves to Iowa overturned on an Interstate 57 exit ramp at Rantoul on Thursday morning.
Seventeen of the animals died as a result of the wreck or were injured and had to be euthanized, according to Jan Allen, Rantoul Foods livestock procurement manager, who assisted at the scene.
"The majority of those were dead on impact," Allen said.
Illinois State Police trooper Bobby Woodard said the truck driver, who was originally westbound on Interstate 74, mistakenly exited north onto Interstate 57 at Champaign.
The driver possibly intended to head back south on I-57 at Rantoul and turned onto the exit ramp to U.S. 136 but failed to negotiate the curve.
State trooper Tracy Lillard said the driver, Scott Lundeen, 58, of Carnegie, Okla., was not familiar with the area and did not expect the ramp to make such a sharp turn. Skid marks from the truck measured 200 feet.
"It’s not your typical exit ramp off an interstate," Woodard said. "It’s sharp."
He said the driver and his pet Yorkshire terrier dog were able to crawl out of the cab without injury.
Lundeen was ticketed for failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident.
Firefighters from Rantoul and Thomasboro responded to the scene. Water was sprayed on the trapped calves to keep them cool in the hot June weather.
Temperatures were in the low 80s at the time of the accident and rising.
Rantoul Fire Chief Ken Waters said the accident happened about 8 a.m. Allen helped off load the calves onto livestock trailers. They were to be taken to Rantoul Foods until they can be transported to Iowa.
Lillard said it was Allen’s idea to keep the calves cool with water. She said Allen has assisted state police after several other area accidents involving livestock.
No animals escaped the trailer following the wreck.
A University of Illinois Veterinary Medicine staff member was on the scene and euthanized the animals that suffered significant injuries.
Waters said about nine firefighters responded to the call, with six of them being from Rantoul. The Rantoul department had two vehicles on the scene, while Thomasboro brought one fire truck.
Allen said all of the feeder calves weighed between 400 and 500 pounds. They were originally from Tennessee.
She said she was surprised the calves had such a heavy winter coat, having been from a warmer climate. Allen said it was essential to cool the animals.
Allen said the animals were understandably excited and scared, and the heat added to their discomfort.
Allen was surprised at how calm the animals were afterward.
"They were very shocky, just like people (after an accident) would be. Sometimes when they see daylight, they take off," but that wasn’t the case with these calves.
"I feel like they must have had a lot of human contact. They actually walked off the (semi) trailer and onto our trailer."
Allen was at work at Rantoul Foods, located a few miles west of the accident scene, when she was notified one of the company’s drivers had spotted the accident, prompting her to head to the site.
Dave Hinton is editor of the Rantoul Press, a News-Gazette community newspaper. For more, visit rantoulpress.com.