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U.S. 24 reopening delayed after Tuesday pileup

Paulding, Ohio, woman ID'd in fatal wreck

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 - 2:53 pm

The reopening of U.S. 24 just inside Ohio – closed since Tuesday after a fatal pileup – has been pushed back to at least 12 a.m. Thursday because of delays in cleaning up ethanol that spilled in the wreck.

A Paulding, Ohio, woman died and nine others were hurt in the pileup, which involved 10 tractor-trailers and several passenger cars Tuesday along the four-lane "Fort to Port" highway that links Fort Wayne with Toledo.

The route was initially scheduled to reopen by 10 a.m. Wednesday, but an equipment malfunction delayed the cleanup of flammable ethanol, said Trooper Deb Tracy of the Ohio State Highway Patrol. As of Wednesday afternoon, police said the route could remain closed until as late as 6 a.m.

Cleanup crews were using tractors Wednesday to remove soil contaminated by at least 1,500 gallons of ethanol that spilled. They started with a pair of tractors, but one broke down, causing a significant delay, Tracy said.

Ashley Messmann, 28, died in the wreck, which police have attributed at least partially to foggy conditions. Nine other people were hospitalized, but their injuries were not considered life-threatening, police said.

A total of 14 vehicles were involved in the wreck: 11 commercial trucks, two passenger cars and a pickup hauling excavating equipment, state police said in a news release.

At the time of the crash, visibility was less than 100 feet because of dense fog, police said.