A Norwalk truck driver died Thursday after his tractor-trailer went off the Indiana Toll Road and into a homeowner's back yard before hitting a tree.
Frank W. Epperley, 55, of 251 W. Main St., was heading west about 12:30 p.m. two miles east of Indiana 49 when his tractor-trailer left the road. The truck, carrying several passenger vans, careened into the back yard before coming to a stop about 100 feet from the road.
Epperley, who was wearing a seat belt, suffered internal injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene, Indiana State Police Sgt. Dennis Baehler said. Drugs and alcohol are not suspected of being factors, but the sergeant noted that test results should be available in several days.
"It's not conclusive that this (set of injuries) was the result of the crash. It could have been an illness, maybe a heart attack," Baehler added.
Epperley's son, David, suspects his father had a heart attack. He said his father had recent health problems and two heart attacks in the last year and believes his health might have contributed to the accident.
Porter County Coroner Victoria Deppe expected to perform an autopsy today to determine if a medical condition caused the accident.
No other vehicles were involved. The home was not damaged, but the truck narrowly missed a back yard shed and a nearby garden.
The homeowner, who did not want to be identified, told the Gary Post-Tribune that she arrived home after grocery shopping and found the truck and rescue personnel in her yard.
A hazardous materials crew was dispatched to clean the scene after a diesel fuel tank was ripped from the truck and landed in a nearby drainage ditch, Liberty Township Volunteer Fire Department spokesman Ray Wesley told the Post-Tribune. The amount of spilled fuel was unknown.
Epperley was driving an E & L Transport truck out of Lorain County. David Epperley said his father was a hard worker who was employed by E & L for the past eight years and had a good driving record. Frank Epperley was born in Beckley, W.Va., lived in Cleveland for most of his life and moved to the Wakeman-Norwalk area 20 years ago.