A shocking increase in the number of wrecks on a particular Elizabethtown Road curve has officials perplexed, but jumping to action.
Prior to December 6, the curve at the 8300 block of Elizabethtown Road, about one mile west of Big Clifty, saw no more vehicle accidents than any other such stretch of roadway, but then something happened.
Five unrelated wrecks in a period of four days in the exact same location had authorities “baffled,” according to Sheriff Rick Clemons, whose department worked the accidents.
At the time of the first accident, when 21-year-old Kyla Duchnowski’s 1995 GMC Jimmy struck a utility pole and then a tree, sending her to Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center’s ER, no one could have suspected anything unusual.
According to the accident report filed with the Grayson County Sheriff’s Department, Duchnowski told the responding officer, Chief Deputy Tony Willen, that as she came into the curve, she applied her brakes but was unable to steer.
No exact cause was discovered for the accident.
Later that same day, a second accident occurred in the curve. On December 7, 8 and 10, three more wrecks caused more injuries. In each case, the cause of the accident remained unclear.
The last in the series of wrecks, which occurred just after noon on Monday, left Leitchfield resident Gloria D. Watkins remarkably uninjured after her 2003 Mitsubishi Lancer left the roadway and struck a ditch before flipping several times.
Watkins told the responding officer that she felt the rear end of her vehicle slide before hitting the ditch.
Sheriff Rick Clemons called the number of wrecks “alarming,” and said on Wednesday, “we’re not sure exactly what’s going on, but we’re blessed that someone’s not been killed or very seriously injured.”
Clemons, who worked at least one of the wrecks himself, said that speed did not appear to be a factor in the accidents, and added that the roadway was not freezing.
“We’re all concerned.” he said, “It’s alarming to us, so alarming that we got together and had a meeting with the State Highway Department.”
Patty Dunaway, Chief District Engineer of Kentucky’s State Highway Department, District 4, said on Thursday, “There’s lots of things that could go into it, but there is some issue when you’ve got five wrecks within a four or five day span. There’s obviously something wrong.”
“When we have multiple crashes like that in a short period of time, we definitely want to get people out there and look at that,”she added, explained that her group took a look at the section of roadway in question and were not able to identify the cause of the upsurge in accidents.
The only noteworthy similarity between each of the accidents, she said, is that the roadway was wet each time.
The typical procedure in a case like this, Dunaway said, is to “do drilling and cores,” but since asphalt plants are shutting down around this time of year, she explained that that was not an option.
“We made the decision at the end of last week that we’re going to patch it,” she added.
The highway department patched a section of approximately 1,000 feet long on Thursday and added caution signs. Ditching was done to ensure that water is not draining dangerously onto the roadway, and the shoulders of the road were built up.
Clemons said his department also has plans to move their mobile traffic radar to the location as well to help get drivers’ attention and slow them down.
Dunaway’s caution to drivers was this: “Be aware of your surroundings and slow down. Any time it’s been raining and especially if you may have snow or ice, give yourself more time and slow down.”