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1 killed, 1 'critical' after weather-related accidents

Friday, January 13, 2012 - 11:17 am

Winter reared its snowy head in the region, with snow-related business getting in gear and police busy with accidents.

In Fort Wayne, the National Weather Service reported 3.3 inches of snow by this morning, but authorities and city officials said wind and drifting would likely cause more problems than the relatively light snowfall.

“Obviously the wind is a factor today. One of the biggest things we're facing today is the drifting,” said city spokesman Frank Suarez.

Because of the high winds, a freshly plowed street could end up covered in snow again within 30 minutes, Suarez said. The city had deployed 40 plows and salt trucks, with crews working round-the-clock in shifts since Thursday afternoon, he said.

Icy roads Thursday afternoon caused a fatal crash on U.S. 33 north of Chase Road, according to Michael Burris, chief investigator with the Allen County Coroner's office. A vehicle crossed the center line around 4:40 p.m. and struck another car, killing Eric M. Sitcler, 31, of Fort Wayne, according to the coroner's office.

Although Indiana State Police reported light traffic Thursday night and into this morning, with few slide-offs, a wreck involving three vehicles this morning on U.S. 33 in northern Allen County left a driver in critical condition, and numerous crashes were reported on Interstate 69.

Around 6 a.m., a dump truck headed north on U.S. 33 apparently clipped a southbound semi-trailer just north of Carroll Road, causing the semi to jackknife and slam into a smaller truck or SUV also traveling southbound, said Cpl. Jeremy Tinkel, a spokesman for the Allen County Sheriff's Department.

The driver of the SUV was ejected from his vehicle and was later transported to a local hospital in critical condition, Tinkel said. Police were looking for the dump truck, which left the scene, he said. It wasn't clear this morning how many people were in each of the vehicles.

Though police were still investigating what caused the accident, Tinkel said weather and poor visibility in the dark early-morning hours likely played a role.

“There's snow, it's blowing, it's dark, people are in a hurry,” he said.