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Published: Sunday, 2/4/2007

Couple killed in 21-vehicle I-75 pileup identified

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
This three-car accident last night at Airport Highway and Holland-Sylvania Road was one of
several in the Toledo region yesterday. Four people were taken to area hospitals. This three-car accident last night at Airport Highway and Holland-Sylvania Road was one of several in the Toledo region yesterday. Four people were taken to area hospitals.
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VAN BUREN, Ohio The Florida couple killed during near whiteout conditions that contributed to a 21-vehicle pileup and closed I-75 in both directions near the Wood-Hancock county line yesterday have been identified.

Richard W. Searles, 54, and wife Debra Searles, 53, from Lake Wales, Fla. were killed in the accident yesterday afternoon, according to a spokesman from the Findlay Post of the Highway Patrol.

Minutes after the pileup when the Findlay Airport had winds swirling at 46 mph there was a six-vehicle pileup in the southbound lanes of I-75 near Bowling Green that critically injured one passenger. And there were many smaller crashes on other roads in the region.

Hancock, Sandusky, and Seneca counties declared Level 2 snow emergencies, warning that blowing and drifting snow made roads hazardous. Hancock and Sandusky counties made their declaration just before 2 p.m. and Seneca County did the same shortly after 5:30 p.m.

The first big pileup happened about 1:25 p.m.

Among the 21 vehicles were three semi tractor-trailers two of which jack-knifed and 18 cars, pickups, and sport utilities.

The 21-car pileup on I-75, near Van Buren, Ohio, killed a Florida couple and occurred in near-whiteout conditions.
The 21-car pileup on I-75, near Van Buren, Ohio, killed a Florida couple and occurred in near-whiteout conditions.
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Accidents were in both northbound and southbound lanes, an OHP dispatcher said last night. The agency had initially been unable to verify that, because of the amount of scattered wreckage.

There were so many vehicles, Trooper Robert Burd said, explaining the difficulty of recreating the huge accident scene.

The pileup occurred just north of State Rt. 613 in northern Hancock County s Allen Township, about three miles from the village of Van Buren.

Traffic was stopped in both directions for more than two hours. Troopers opened one lane in each direction shortly before 4 p.m. All lanes were opened about 5:15 p.m.

A separate six-vehicle pileup on I-75 near a Bowling Green-area rest stop happened at 1:38 p.m.

A passenger in one of those vehicles was admitted to St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center in critical condition after being flown to Toledo from Wood County, according to the Patrol s Walbridge post.

In Erie County, there were about five crashes, each involving multiple vehicles, according to the sheriff s office there.

The crashes happened in two spurts, with several at midafternoon and another cluster early in the evening.

The Williams County Sheriff s Office investigated a crash with injuries shortly after 3 p.m. just south of Bryan on State Rt. 15.

In western Lucas County, the Ohio Highway Patrol was investigating a three-vehicle crash on Airport Highway just west of Holland-Sylvania Road about 9 p.m. It was unclear whether it was weather-related. One driver and one child were taken to hospitals, although neither was thought to have life-threatening injuries.

The Edison bridge that spans the Sandusky Bay and connects Ottawa and Erie counties was icy, which along with high winds, led to multiple fender-benders.

Winds today aren t expected to be as strong as those yesterday afternoon. Still, the National Weather Service has issued a wind-chill advisory until 1 p.m. tomorrow for northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.

Highs today will be in the single-digits, but westerly winds of 15 to 25 mph will make it seem much colder, forecasters said. Wind chills overnight could reach minus-20. There is a chance of less than an inch of snow today and tonight.

Blade Staff Writers Mark Zaborney and Tom Henry contributed to this report.

Contact Jane Schmucker at:jschmucker@theblade.comor 419-724-6050.



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