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Ohio truck driver dies on I-64 in Shelby County

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By Lisa King

The driver of a tractor-trailer truck was killed Tuesday morning when he drove his rig through a guardrail and ended up in a ravine on westbound Interstate 64.

Randall Thornton, 50, of Ohio, the truck’s only occupant, was pronounced dead at the scene by Shelby County Deputy Coroner Jeff Ivers.

Shelby County Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Rice said the accident happened shortly before 5 a.m. Tuesday as Thornton approached Exit 35 at Shelbyville, where Thornton lost control of the rig when he sideswiped a vehicle that had been abandoned on the side of the roadway.

The truck took out a section of guardrail and crashed through several trees before coming to rest on its side at the bottom of a ravine about 50 feet from the surface, shutting down one lane of the westbound traffic.

The mangled semi was a forlorn sight at the bottom of the ravine, with its cab completely pulverized, its windshield gone, with just the stubs of its windshield wipers still moving jerkily back and forth.

The tanker leaked large amounts of oil and a tar-based liquid used in making asphalt that it was carrying.

Rice said local and state environmental groups are working to clean up the cargo spill.

Transportation Cabinet spokesperson Chuck Wolfe said when the accident occurred that the right lane of westbound Interstate 64 would be shut down from mile marker 36 until further notice and advised drivers to take an alternate route if possible.

Shelbyville Fire Chief Willard “Tiger” Tucker, who was at the scene, said the guard rail would have to be cut away to get the semi out and estimated that would take until at least the afternoon hours.

Wolfe said Tuesday afternoon that estimated had been extended.

“It’s already taken longer than we expected,” he said. “Sometimes you don’t really know what you’ve got until you get in there and start working on it.”

Wolfe said he expected cleanup efforts to continue throughout the night and possibly for days.