COLERAIN TOWNSHIP, Ohio - Investigators released their findings Thursday on the details surrounding the Interstate 275 pileup that took the life of a 12-year-old girl near Colerain Township in January.
According to the 250-page report from the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, "...fault cannot be placed on one or several parties due to conditions created by the inclement weather." The report indicates that the Jan. 21 accident was caused by winter weather conditions known as a white-out, a term used to describe conditions during snowfall that severely restrict visibility.
The initial crash was caused when the lead vehicles drove into the inclement conditions and the visibility was so poor that it caused them to take evasive action by slowing their vehicles, according to the report.
As the first vehicles slowed to a speed below the posted speed limit, additional vehicles continued to enter into the area "at a rate of speed which did not allow them to either take evasive action or slow to a stop, setting off a chain reaction of motor vehicles colliding with one another."
Ann VonHandorf, one of the people involved in the accident, submitted the following statement to investigators:
"I was driving (on) West I-275. It started snowing real hard. Visibility got bad. Traffic was slowing down. Suddenly the cars in front of me were stopping. I tried to stop but was skidding and ended up hitting the car in front of me. There was traffic in all three lanes with nowhere to go without hitting someone. (I) pulled to left side of the highway and stopped."
Denise A. Gordon was traveling just past the Hamilton Avenue exit when she says the white-out struck.
"I was traveling westbound on I-275 when just post the Hamilton Avenue exit in the middle of a snow ‘whiteout' when I saw cars skidding in from of me. I managed to steer towards the median, but as I stopped was hit from behind and shoved into a car stopped in front of me," said Gordon who while not being injured during the accident had a scare soon thereafter. "I was fully stopped. I turned off the ignition and saw a 55-gallon barrel of green liquid next to my car (spewing the green liquid). I grabbed my purse and ran as fast as I could away from the accident as I saw semis behind me skidding and I didn't want to be crushed. This happened between 11:30-11:45 a.m."
Investigators have also determined a cause of death for the lone victim of the accident, 12-year-old Sammy Reagan, of Kings Mills. According to the report, Reagan was a passenger in a vehicle involved in the collision. After the accident, she exited the vehicle and entered into the median.
The reports finds that Reagan was on the inside of the barrier cables when additional vehicles entered into the median just east of her location. The impact caused the cables to be stretched toward the south side of the median. Investigators determined that the top cable stretched towards the direction of the victim, which resulted in her being struck from behind and sustaining a fatal injury.
In all, 90 vehicles, including 72 cars, trucks, SUVs, and 18 semi-trucks, were involved in the accident.