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Published: Tuesday, 1/29/2013

103-vehicle pileup could take years to sort out

Ohio interstate pileup report will take weeks to sort out, legal issues may linger for years


CINCINNATI — The voluminous accident report on last week’s southwest Ohio highway pileup won’t be done for several weeks — and it could be years before all the legal issues are sorted out, officials said.

A snow squall that came out of nowhere on Jan. 21 led to a pileup involving 103 cars, trucks, and tractor-trailers on westbound I-275 near Cincinnati, involving about 200 drivers and passengers.

Twenty-seven people were injured, and a 12-year-old girl was killed when she was struck by a median cable while waiting for help.

Scores of investigators, insurers, and lawyers will be involved in a complex interplay to determine exactly what happened, who’s to blame, and who will pay for what officials say may be the region’s largest pileup ever.

The injured could be tied up in medical and legal claims that will consume years. And lawsuits are almost certain.

Hamilton County traffic investigators are spending their days huddled around an 8-foot table, poring over photos, notes, and measurements trying to piece together what happened. The final report is expected to be 500 to 700 pages long.

“They will attempt to find the at-fault driver and whether it was one continuous accident or 45 separate accidents,” sheriff’s spokesman Jim Knapp told The Cincinnati Enquirer. “There could be fault on several people’s part. ... But I don’t think we’ll ever know.”

Some vehicles were hit 10 or more times. Sixth-grader Sammy Reagan was killed by a median cable because it was struck by another car.

Similar conditions occurred on I-75 north of Cincinnati a short time after the I-275 crashes, causing a 50-car pileup.

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