Troopers: There was advance warning of work zone before I-76 cr - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Troopers: There was advance warning of work zone before I-76 crashes

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JACKSON TOWNSHIP, Mahoning County, Ohio -

Several people remain in critical condition after those chain reaction crashes on Interstate 76 Sunday night in Jackson Township.

The accidents happened in an active work zone where speed was not reduced, but there was plenty of warning to the upcoming lane restrictions.  

So what happened?   

The Ohio State Highway Patrol's Canfield Post says the first accident happened at 5:59 p.m. on Sunday just before an active construction zone.

The Ohio Department of Transportation says the speed limit remained at 70 miles per hour because the work zone was only 200 feet long.

But 21 News has learned that there was ample warning before drivers got to that point.

In the first accident, a semi truck driven by Jacob W. Kummer of Ellwood City, PA, was eastbound and struck the rear of a stopped Volkswagen Tauge causing a chain reaction crash that ultimately involved nine vehicles at I-76 and Bailey Road in Jackson Township.  

Mary Duffy who was in the 2012 Volkswagen was transported to St. Elizabeth Hospital with serious injuries.  Troopers say her condition is unknown.

The State Highway Patrol says it's unclear why the semi crashed,  because there was advanced warning in the form of signs and State Troopers in cruisers with flashing lights.

Sergeant Eric Golias says, "At certain construction zones, ODOT requires that Troopers be present in the advance warning area of construction zones.  The purpose of that is to be active with their lights to remind people you're coming into a construction zone, we need to slow down, we need to pay attention to what's in front of us."

A half mile west of the first accident, a short time later, a second crash occurred when a family from North Jackson with three young girls and an adult female in the car slammed into the back of a semi that was stopped for the first accident.

In both cases a team of State Troopers are investigating whether distracted driving may have been a factor or if other factors were involved.

Justine Grosick of North Jackson was transported to St. Elizabeth in critical condition, an eight-year-old girl was flown by helicopter to Akron Children's with head injuries.

Authorities say when you're driving, it's important to pay attention because at 70 miles per hour it only take three seconds for your car to travel the distance of a football field.

So authorities warn that you have to keep both eyes on the road, and when you see a construction zone or even another accident realize you need to watch for stopped traffic.

Chief Greg Taillon, Jackson Township Police Department, says, "Unfortunately people are just distracted. They are not paying attention. They are either on their cell phone or looking at the GPS trying to make phone calls or text or whatever, and unfortunately, that ends up with them taking their eyes off the road."

Police also urge drivers to be patient when traffic is backed up due to an accident and realize if you're trying to pull in the median to turn around or turn around and go the wrong way on a ramp you could not only cause another accident you may be interfering with access of emergency responders.

"At that point, the emergency responders, whether it be ambulance, police or fire, they all have a critical job to do and people's lives are at risk.  So please be patient and understanding and realize that if it was you or your family in that situation you would certainly want the same courtesy," Chief Taillon said.

OSP says the cause of the crashes are still under investigation.

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