Police have released more information about a deadly crash Thursday morning involving two semis in LaPorte County. They say a drunk driver was responsible.
The full news release is below:
LaPorte County-Indiana State Police responded to three vehicle crash, involving two semis, which closed I-94 for approximately two hours, and killed one of the semi drivers.
Preliminary investigation by Trooper Rogelio Escutia revealed that at approximately 2:01 a.m., a 2007 International semi pulling a refrigerated box trailer, driven by George A. Leeth Senior, 37 of Hammond, was on 911 calling in an alleged drunk driver. Leeth described the vehicle, which was later identified as a 2006 Audi station wagon, as driving erratically, off and onto the road, from lane to lane, with speeds varying from 25-60 mph east bound on I-94. The Audi stopped in the middle of the right lane at the 43 mile marker (this is approximately 2 ½ miles west of the Indiana/Michigan State line) and the driver got out of his vehicle and began to walk around.
Leeth, who had activated his four way emergency hazard lights as he was talking to 911, stopped behind the Audi and got out of his semi to talk to the Audi driver. Leeth advised the Audi driver, later identified as Howard B Gutenstein, 47 of Valparaiso, to get back inside his car because of traffic in the area. As Leeth started to climb back into his semi, a second semi hit Leeth’s semi pushing it slightly into the rear of the Audi.
The second semi, a 2006 Freightliner pulling a tanker, driven by Steven Lunn, 52 of Olympia Fields, Illinois, was east bound in the right lane when he swerved to the right to avoid Leeth’s semi. Lunn’s semi hit the rear of Leeth’s trailer causing the cab to come to rest in the right lane and the tanker on the outer shoulder. Lunn’s semi was owned by Langer Transport out of Jersey City, New Jersey. He was loaded and placarded for Ethanol. No load was lost or compromised.
Lunn had to be extricated from his semi and pronounced dead at the scene by the LaPorte County Coroner of massive trauma. FAMILY HAS BEEN NOTIFIED.
Leeth was taken to Saint Anthony’s Hospital in Michigan City for non-life threatening injuries. Leeth’s semi was owned by Fore Transportation out of Harvey, Illinois, and loaded with perishable food. No load was lost.
Gutenstein was not injured. Further investigation revealed he had a blood alcohol content of .13%; Gutenstein was taken to LaPorte County Jail where he was charged with Operating While Intoxicated causing Death, a Class C Felony and Endangering, a Class A Misdemeanor.
Traffic was diverted off I-94 at State Road 421 until approximately 4:00 a.m. when they re-opened the left lane; all lanes were re-opened at 7:00 a.m.
Assisting: LaPorte County FACT Team, LaPorte County Coroner, Trooper Danielle Elwood-Reconstruction, Corporal Fred Blohm, and Trooper Brian Rubesha
All criminal defendants are to be presumed innocent until, and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.