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Semi driver dies in I-39 crash involving three big rigs

Published: Saturday, April 19, 2014 1:50 p.m. CDT • Updated: Saturday, April 19, 2014 2:18 p.m. CDT

ROCHELLE – A fiery crash on Interstate 39 in Ogle County Friday night involving three semi tractor trailers took the life of a driver from Texas, State Police said.

According to a news release issued today, and to a State Police Sgt. Eric Van Dyke:

Around 8 p.m., a northbound semi driven by William M. Spearman, 41, of Chicago, going slower than the minimum speed limit of 45 mph, was rear-ended by a semi driven by Ralph W. Maness, 60, of Sanger, Texas just south of Rochelle.

Maness's truck burst into flames, and he died at the scene.

The third semi, driven by Craig L. Zimbauer, 36, of Elk Mound, Wis., and also northbound, swerved into a ditch to avoid the accident, but stopped so close that his semi also caught fire.

Neither Spearman nor Zimbauer were injured.

Spearman was cited for violating the minimum speed limit, which is a $120 ticket.

Northbound traffic was diverted from I-39 to state Route 251 until 9 a.m. Saturday while the on-scene investigation was conducted.

Further investigation into the accident is ongoing, Van Dyke said.

He didn't know how fast the first two trucks were going, or what they were hauling.

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