BY ED GEBERT

Times Bulletin Editor

egebert@timesbulletin.com

CELINA — A 16-year-old Mendon girl was helicoptered to St. Rita’s Medical Center in Lima Sunday night after the vehicle she was driving went left of center on U.S. 33 and struck a tractor-trailer rig.

Kaetlyn Sawmiller was eastbound on U.S. 33 just west of the intersection with Palmer Rd. in Mercer County. She was driving a 2006 Ford Explorer. The reason for the vehicle crossing the center line is still unknown, but it struck a 1997 Freightliner semi tractor and trailer, then went off the south side of the highway, coming to rest in a ditch. The truck jack-knifed and stopped just off the north side of the road. The semi then burst into flames. The driver, Osniel J. Alcorta of Mt. Dora, Florida was able to escape before the flames engulfed the rig.

The accident remains under investigation. Mercer County Sheriff’s Deputies were assisted on scene by the Mendon and Celina Fire Departments, Commercial Motor Vehicle Inspector, and MCERV.

U.S. 33 was closed for more than seven hours after the 6:25 p.m. incident.