Two members of the National Guard’s Illinois-based 1244th Transportation Company and a Poet truck driver were hospitalized Wednesday morning for serious injuries sustained in a crash on the northern edge of Mitchell.
The crash occurred at 7:16 a.m. at the intersection of State Highway 37 and National Guard Road.
Davison County Emergency Management Director Jeff Bathke said members of the National Guard who were not involved in the crash responded and provided help before local first responders arrived.
The two National Guard members injured in the crash were traveling as part of a convoy of about 10 vehicles which was on its way back to North Riverside, Illinois, after annual training in the Black Hills, according to Lt. Colonel Brad Leighton, public affairs director for the Illinois National Guard. Leighton said those in the convoy stayed in Mitchell the night before the crash.
“Whenever there’s an accident involving our folks … we always look into it to see how we might avoid such accidents in the future,” Leighton told The Daily Republic on Wednesday afternoon.
The driver was Krystal Vazquez, 27, of Cicero, Illinois. The South Dakota Department of Public Safety said there is a charge pending against her. She was wearing a seat belt and sustained serious, non-life threatening injuries. The passenger in that vehicle was a 26-year-old man who also was wearing a seat belt and sustained serious, non-life threatening injuries.
Bathke said the Poet semi-truck tanker-trailer was carrying carbon dioxide refrigerated liquid, which is a non-flammable, non-poisonous gas that is commonly used for refrigeration and cooling when in a solid or liquid form.
“They’re very lucky,” Bathke said. “If you look at the impact of 65 mph of two trucks, they’re very lucky. We’re lucky we did not have the tanker rupture. But overall, it’s a mess.”
The driver of the Poet semi-truck is a 64-year-old man. He also sustained serious, non-life threatening injuries. His vehicle was northbound on Highway 37 when the military vehicle was eastbound on National Guard Road and stopped at the stop sign, according to the Department of Public Safety.
The military vehicle traveled across both southbound lanes of Highway 37, through the center median approach and into the path of the semi-truck, which had the right of way. The semi collided with the passenger side of the vehicle. Both vehicles left the roadway to the east and entered the ditch.
Both the military vehicle and tanker-trailer rolled onto their tops. The semi-truck stayed upright. The tanker-trailer was not breached.
Very little diesel fuel leaked out from the crash, Bathke said, and all potentially hazardous materials are completely contained. Cleanup from the crash continued throughout the morning and into the early afternoon.
In a statement issued Wednesday morning, Poet Senior Vice President of External Affairs and Communications Kyle Gilley said Poet has a strict focus on the safe loading and transportation of its products and will be looking into the incident to make sure procedures were followed.
Responding agencies included Mitchell Fire and EMS, the South Dakota Department of Transportation, Highway Patrol and Davison County Emergency Management.