Tuesday, February 19, 2002

Couple, 2 kids killed in wreck

I-75 wreck closed interstate

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A Michigan couple and two of their children were killed and two people were hospitalized in one of three separate accidents that closed sections of Interstate 75 in Grant County for a total of 10 hours, starting about 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

        Traffic on northbound I-75 was backed up for miles, and many drivers sat on the interstate so long that they turned off their headlights.

        Killed in a 2:50 a.m. accident Monday on northbound I-75 about a mile north of Dry Ridge were Judy and Michael McKennett, their son Michael and daughter Megan, Kentucky State Police said. That accident closed the interstate for about two hours.

        At the scene, Grant County Coroner Marylee Willoby pronounced the four dead of massive trauma. Mr. McKennett drove the family's 1993 Toyota Previa van into a semi, which had stopped because the interstate was closed for an earlier accident.

        The McKennetts were returning to their Northville, Mich,. home after a vacation in Florida, Ms. Willoby said. Traveling separately were the children's grandparents, whom authorities were still trying to reach Monday evening.

        The McKennetts' third child and a family friend were airlifted to the University of Kentucky Medical Center, where the two, ages 13 and 17, were listed in good condition Monday afternoon, according to a hospital spokeswoman. Their names were not released.

        Kentucky State Police said that alcohol was not a factor in the accident. “Given the time of night, maybe (Mr. McKennett) was on the sleepy side and just didn't realize that the traffic in front of him was completely stopped,” Ms. Willoby said.

        The driver of the semi, Hubert C. Fields, 49, was not injured. Kentucky State Police said the seven people involved in that accident were wearing seat belts.

        Authorities said the semi had been forced to stop when police closed the interstate after a two-vehicle accident at 12:39 a.m. Monday on northbound I-75 five miles north of Dry Ridge. Robin Ventura, 19, of Cincinnati, was airlifted to University Hospital in Cincinnati from that accident. She was listed in good condition Monday.

        Before that accident, northbound I-75 just south of Dry Ridge had been open less than an hour because of a seven-vehicle pileup that occurred there about 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

        ARTIMIS, the Tristate's traffic management system that operates around-the-clock cameras on the interstate and alerts drivers to accidents via signs, monitors traffic mostly within the Interstate 275 beltway and stops just north of Walton at the I-75/Interstate 71 split.

        Tim Schoch, deputy program manager for ARTIMIS, said there have been long-range discussions with regional planners to extend the traffic management system into Grant County, but he said there are no immediate plans to do so.

       The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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