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Fatal 14-vehicle pileup closes US 24 in Paulding County

Thick fog contributed to a 14-vehicle pileup on U.S. 24 that killed a woman and caused an ethanol spill Tuesday morning in Paulding County, according to Ohio State Highway Patrol.

Ashley A. Messmann was driving a 2000 Chevy Blazer north on County Road 87, and she tried to cross U.S. 24 but did not yield to an eastbound semi, the patrol said.

The semi, driven by Dale D. Janssens, 41, of Monroe, Mich., struck the Blazer, and Messmann, 28, of Paulding, Ohio, died at the scene, the patrol said.

"We believe (the initial collision) was due to the dense fog in the area at the time, and then a pileup ensued after that," Trooper Deb Tracey said.

Visibility was less than 100 feet when the crash happened just before 8 a.m., the patrol said. The road was dry.

Vehicles in the eastbound and westbound lanes tried to avoid the first crash, and this led to seven more crashes. A total of 11 semis, two passenger vehicles and a pickup truck hauling excavating equipment were involved.

Nine motorists were taken to hospitals with injuries that were not life-threatening, the patrol said. Their names and conditions were not released.

The semi that hit the Blazer was hauling a tanker that contained liquid ethanol. The crash ruptured the tanker and about 1,500 gallons of liquid ethanol, a flammable substance, spilled into the median, the patrol said.

Lt. Leslie Brode, commander of the patrol's Van Wert post, said the spill was contained by firefighters and that it "poses no threat to the local area or to any of the people that are living close."

The crash occurred about 10 miles east of the Indiana-Ohio line. For much of Tuesday, U.S. 24 was shut down from Indiana 101 in Allen County to U.S. 127 in Paulding County, authorities said.

U.S. 24 remained closed late Tuesday while the environmental officials dealt with the spill. There was no word on when the road would open.

The crash is under investigation.


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