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Two men who had stopped to help what they thought was a horrible crash on Interstate 64 on Monday morning instead became the victims of what one law officer said was the worst accident he had witnessed.
Charles Burtt, 71, of Broad Run, Va., and Jamaal Wood, 33, of Louisville, two Good Samaritans who had stopped to help those involved in a 3-vehicle pileup at westbound Mile Marker 38 about 11:30 a.m., died when they were run over by a tractor trailer that couldn’t stop when they emerged into the traffic lane.
“This is the most horrific thing I have ever seen,“ Shelby County Sheriff’s Det. Jason Rice said.
Adding to the tragedy were two other elements: Wood recently had become a new father, and Burtt’s wife, Cleo Burtt, 75, was sitting in their van when the truck crashed into it, sending her to hospital with injuries.
The two-accident scene, which involved six vehicles, tied up traffic for nearly 12 hours, rerouting travelers at Waddy but trapping for hours some motorists nearer the scene.
Actually, there was no need for Burtt and Wood to leave their vehicles, Shelby County Chief Deputy Coroner Jeff Ivers said, because no one was injured in the first crash.
That accident occurred when a produce truck that had pulled into the emergency lane was clipped by a tractor-trailer, causing the semi to blow a front tire and veer out of the left lane and into the median, taking a passenger car with it, Rice said.
He said that melee looked a lot worse than it was, with the tractor trailer and another car wrecked in the median, after having dug gouges out of the ground and leaving the guardrail in jagged pieces.
He said that Burtt and Wood, both in vans, stopped on the left-lane shoulder to lend assistance, but, in their frantic haste, they left corners of their vans obstructing the roadway.
That’s when a second tractor trailer rapidly approaching the scene could not stop and crashed into them.
Wife hurt, too
"Another semi comes along that can't stop and strikes the two individuals who have gotten out of their cars to help," Rice said. "He hits them and kills them, and then hits their vehicles.”
Cleo Burtt was sitting in that van, waiting for her husband, when the truck crashed into it. She was calling 911 on her cell phone, and Rice said he does not think she witnessed her husband being struck. She was transported to Jewish Hospital Shelbyville with minor injuries and treated and released, Ivers said.
"It's probably the most chaotic and tragic wreck I've seen in all my years," Rice said. "They were just two men who stopped to help the people in the first accident, who had ended up in the median, and were not hurt, but they didn't know that," he said.
Wood, originally from Greenburg, is a youth activities coach who worked for SCM Life Oxygen in Louisville. Officials at SCM decline to talk about Wood with The Sentinel-News.
Shelby County Chief Deputy Coroner Jeff Ivers said that Burtt’s family, planned to take his body back to Virginia for burial.
Worst traffic tie-up
I-64 westbound was shut down until 11 p.m., a situation that many caused grave inconvenience to many people, as the line of traffic stretched east on I-64 nearly to the Woodford County line at 7:30 p.m. Persons trapped in the mess were filling up social media with their frustrations and needs for relief.
Alternate routes such as U.S. 60 were backed up to Frankfort as well, and streets and intersections around Shelbyville required law enforcement officers to direct traffic to help keep it moving.
Accident reconstructionist Deputy Rick Meadows said that state highway department personnel, as well as Shelbyville Police, came in to assist with traffic management.
State personnel closed off the Waddy exit westbound, and Shelbyville Police officer and spokesperson Kelly Cable said officers directed traffic at Mount Eden Road and U.S. 60.
“The biggest thing was that we had a lot of traffic from the interstate that was being detoured onto U.S. sixty; a lot of industrial trucks, eighteen-wheelers and that type of thing. So that slowed down things, too.”
Meadows said he remembers one time back in the 1980s when I-64 had to be shut down for 24 hours because of a tractor-trailer fire, but aside from that, Monday’s accident was the worst traffic tie up he can recall.
“It’s the worst that we’ve had in recent years,” he said.
One woman, Cathy Hancock, who works in Frankfort and lives in Jeffersontown, said it took her four hours to get home.
“I have been held up in traffic due to accidents, snow, ice, etc., but never for over four hours,” Hancock said in an E-mail. “But my heart goes out to the victims of the accident and their families.
“It’s hard to complain when I returned to my home, safe and sound. We all need to count our blessings twice.”