Unsafe Conditions

MINA – Speed and an ice-covered Southern Tier Expressway were blamed for a fatal accident that occurred shortly after 3 a.m. Thursday morning in the town of Mina.

Milton Frank Pertl, 63, of Girard, Pa., was pronounced dead at the scene by John Sixbey, Chautauqua County coroner, in the accident that shut down 8 miles of Interstate 86 in each direction between the Sherman and Findley Lake exits.

The Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office said an eastbound truck on I-86 driven by Theon C. Nelson, 48, of Elyria, Ohio, had stopped in the driving lane due to a jack-knifed rig in front of him. Deputies said Pertl, who also was driving eastbound in a box truck, then drove into the rear of the stopped tractor-trailer.

Witnesses told police Pertl was traveling too fast considering the icy roadways. The National Weather Service had temperatures around 28 degrees with an overcast sky at the time of the accident.

The crash closed both lanes of I-86 between the two exits; the westbound lane reopened two hours after the accident, while the eastbound lane reopened just after 8 a.m. Firefighters from Sherman and Findley Lake assisted at the scene.

The Sheriff’s Office in the past has warned of slippery conditions on the expressway due to freezing rain and black ice.

“Every time the weather swings and we get a thaw we get these issues, especially on Interstate 86,” Chautauqua County Sheriff Joe Gerace said a day before the fatal accident. “People have to understand when this moisture on the road freezes they may not readily know that it’s there.”

Black ice also was cited in an early morning accident on Route 426 in the town of French Creek. Sheriff deputies said Monte McKuhn, 42, of Clymer was operating his vehicle westbound when he lost control on the ice-covered road, striking a tree in the ditch. McKuhn was transported to Hamot Medical Center in Erie, Pa., for treatment of minor injuries, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Slippery roadways wreaked havoc in other parts of the Southern Tier as well. The Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday issued a two-hour, early morning travel advisory, noting roadways were ice-covered and extremely slippery due to freezing rain.

“The roads were all icy,” said Capt. Robert Buchhardt of the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office. “I don’t know how much snow we got, but the roads were slick to say the least.”