Kentucky State Police were investigating  whether distracted driving caused a tractor-trailer to plow into an SUV carrying  eight people on Saturday, killing six and possibly triggering a serious crash on  the opposite side of the highway.

The truck driver is ‘telling us that he saw  the vehicle that was in front of him and he hit the brakes and he didn’t hit  them in time,’ Master Trooper Norman Chaffins said. ‘ … There was a reason for  that and we’re trying to figure out what the reason was.’

The late-morning crash was followed 15  minutes later by a multi-vehicle crash on the opposite side of Interstate 65  that injured three people. The site was just 15 miles from where 11 people died  in 2010 when a tractor-trailer crossed the median and hit a van carrying a  Mennonite family.

Fiery crash: Emergency personnel work at the scene of a multi-vehicle wreck on Interstate 65 near the 82 mile marker, which killed six members of the same family

Ten people in the van were killed  along with  the truck driver and the National Transportation Safety Board determined the  truck driver was distracted by his cellphone.

Chaffins said despite snow flurries,  weather  was not a factor in Saturday’s crashes. The driver was  identified as  47-year-old Ibrahim Fetic of Troy, Mich. Police were  looking at his driving  logs and collected a blood sample.

The six killed were identified as members of  an extended family from Marion, Wis.

They were identified as driver James  Gollnow, 62, and his wife, Barbara Gollnow, 62; Marion Champnoise, 92, a friend; Sarina Gollnow, 18, relationship unknown; and foster children  Gabriel  Zumig, 10, and Soledad Smith, 8.

The two survivors were also foster  children.  Police identified them as Hope Hoth, 15, who was transported  to a hospital in  Lexington with burns and a broken spine; and Aidian  Ejnik, 12, who was taken to  Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville  with cuts to the back of his  head.

Chaffins described both of the children’s  injuries as non-life-threatening.

The two crashes shut down the busy  stretch  of highway for about five hours. The first happened at 11:13  a.m. EST on  northbound I-65 south of Elizabethtown. In the second crash, four vehicles  collided at the same location on the southbound side.

Chaffins said in the first crash, a  1999  Ford Expedition was hit from behind and then hit the car in front  of it, but  the driver of that vehicle had only minor injuries. The  Expedition was  returning to Wisconsin after a trip to Orlando, Fla.

The Expedition was ‘totally engulfed  in  flames. It was totally destroyed by the fire,’ he said, adding, ‘It’s just a  charred mess.’

He said one eyewitness told police two people  emerged from the blaze and one appeared to be on fire.



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