Driver fatigue, inattention contributing factors in Steuben Co crashes

FREMONT, Ind. (ADAMS) – The Indiana State Police investigated two separate but related serious crashes Thursday morning on SR120 in Steuben County. In both crashes, issues related to driver fatigue and inattention were found to be contributing factors.

Fortunately, there were no serious injuries in either crash, including the crash where a Steuben County officer was struck by a passing vehicle.

The first crash occurred at approximately 8:45 a.m., where Master Trooper Kody Buell responded to a two-vehicle head-on crash on SR120 near CR175W. M/Trooper Buell’s preliminary investigation revealed that a black 2000 Ford Explorer operated by Fernando Fernandez-Perez (39) of Angola traveling westbound on SR120 crossed left of center into the path of an oncoming 2019 Freightliner semi-tractor trailer driven by Albert Colten (66) of Stockton, California. The investigation revealed that driver fatigue contributed to the Ford Explorer operating left of center, and it also showed that the semi-tractor took evasive action attempting to avoid the collision, but was unsuccessful. Both vehicles sustained heavy damage and were considered a total loss. Fernandez-Perez sustained minor injuries and was treated and released at the scene by Steuben County EMS personnel. Colten was not injured.

The second crash, although separate from this first crash, involved a Steuben County Sheriff’s Department officer, Chief Deputy Michael Meeks, while he was assisting with traffic control duties related to the above crash scene. S/Trooper Chris Levitt’s investigation revealed that at approximately 9:15 a.m., Chief Deputy Meeks was out of his patrol car directing traffic at the SR120 / CR175W intersection when he was struck by a passing 2018 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck operated by Gary Todd Thompson (53) of Middleton, IN. Chief Deputy Meek sustained a minor injury during this incident, was checked out by Steuben County EMS personnel and released from the scene. Thompson was not injured, and his vehicle did not sustain reportable damage. S/Trooper Levitt’s investigation revealed that driver inattention was a contributing circumstance in this incident, and Thompson was cited for disregarding a traffic control officer as a result.

These two incidents are clear confirmation that driver fatigue and driver inattention while driving can have very real consequences.

The Indiana State Police is reminding all drivers of the importance to being well-rested before getting behind the wheel, and to always pay full attention while driving. Officials say that both crashes were avoidable and fortunately did not result in serious injury to the parties involved.