Why did police keep EB I-275 closed so long?

Posted at 12:58 AM, Mar 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-17 00:58:55-04

CAMPBELL COUNTY, Ky. -- Though an hours-long closure of a major freeway was inconvenient for hundreds of drivers Tuesday evening, a crash reconstruction expert said it was normal -- and necessary for the investigation.

Campbell County police think it will take them weeks to sort out what, exactly, happened  during a "horrifying" series of crashes on the the Combs-Hehl Bridge. The events sent one vehicle in the Ohio River near Coney Island and left eastbound Interstate 275 closed for most of the night.

Dan Aerni, founder of MV Engineering Company, described Tuesday's six-hour closure as basically normal.

"They were gathering data from the scene," he said. "They would have debris. They would have tire marks. They would have, probably, fluid stains."

The crash team would also try to match paint from the vehicles, Aerni said -- no small task, given that Campbell County Police Chief Craig Sorrell said 12 vehicles were involved in four separate collisions.

MORE: Witnesses recall crash on I-275

One of those sent a vehicle off the side of the bridge; it remains in the Ohio River, as current conditions prevent its recovery. Investigators don't yet know the vehicle type, registration, owner or possible occupants.

"What they can learn from that vehicle will have to wait until they get it," Aeri said. "It certainly complicates things."

Beck Stratton, a witness on the bridge, said a semi rear-ended several vehicles that were stopped in the eastbound lanes after a fender-bender at the Kellogg Avenue exit at about 4:30 p.m.

"It was horrifying," Stratton said.

The eastbound lanes' closure caused a major traffic backup on I-275 toward Ohio. For hours, drivers who had been stuck between I-471 and the bridge had to cross the median and turn around -- one vehicle at a time.