The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



ND senior killed in early morning car accident

Kate Antonacci | Monday, November 13, 2006

A Notre Dame senior was killed in a car crash early Friday morning on Indiana State Toll Road near LaPorte, Ind., officials said.

Caitlin Brann, 22, was headed west on Interstate 80-90 at 2:13 a.m. EST Friday when her rear passenger-side tire blew out, causing her to lose control of her 2000 Chevrolet Cavalier convertible, according to an Indiana State Police report.

Brann, a marketing major from Orland Park, Ill., entered the median sideways, just past mile marker 41.2. Her car rolled numerous times before becoming airborne and sideswiping the trailer of a semi-truck headed east, said LaPorte County Chief Deputy Coroner John Sullivan, who was on the scene. Brann’s vehicle came to rest upside down.

“She either hit a piece of metal in the road or just plain had a blowout,” Sullivan said Saturday. “Even though she did have her seatbelt on, it was what we call a ‘non-survivable’ type of crash.”

Brann was brought to LaPorte Hospital, but was declared dead on the scene of the accident by Sullivan due to “massive head injuries.”

A soft-top convertible like Brann’s, Sullivan said, lacks structural integrity compared to a “four-door sedan that would have an actual hard top and steel pillars and a steel roof.”

“[Such convertibles] just have steel cross-members and a vinyl covering for the actual roof. So in a roll-over accident you do not have near the protection or structural integrity,” he said.

The Westville Fire Department assisted police on the scene.

Alcohol was also a factor in the crash, he said. It is illegal to operate a vehicle in Indiana with a blood alcohol level of anything over .08 percent, Sullivan said, putting Brann – whose tests showed a .249 percent blood alcohol level – three times above the legal limit.

“We even ran the tests twice because we didn’t smell [alcohol] on the scene,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said he has “no reason” to think that Brann was driving faster than the legal speed limit, which on the Indiana Toll Road is 65 miles per hour.

While Corporal Michael Young of District 21 Indiana State Police told The Observer Friday that another person was in Brann’s vehicle, Sergeant Keith Kopinski said Saturday that there is “no information about another person in the car.”

“I have never heard of a mention of another person,” Kopinski said, citing possible misreading of the police report by Young on Friday.

Sullivan said someone reported the crash as a “two-victim accident, so they had a helicopter coming from South Bend initially.”

Indiana State Police Trooper Ryan Starnes was the first on the scene, after receiving word about the accident from a 2:14 a.m. 911 call, according to the police report.

The Observer could not reach Starnes Saturday afternoon.

The driver of the truck, Sean D. Garber, 38, was not injured, the police report said.

The eastbound lanes of I-80 were shut down for about three hours, Sullivan said, adding that traffic was not “heavy.”