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Local woman dies in Friday crash

A Fairmount woman is dead following an accident on Ind. 37 around 3:50 p.m. involving a semi tractor-trailer and passenger car Friday.

Jennifer Love, 50, was pronounced dead at the scene after the 2004 Hyundai she was driving crossed the centerline and entered the northbound lane for an unknown reason, according to Indiana State Police (ISP) reports. ISP Sgt. Tony Slocum said the cause of the crash, which occurred just north Grant County Road 500 S, remains under investigation.

“At this time, neither alcohol nor drugs are suspected to have contributed to the crash,” ISP stated in a press release.

Police say the driver of the tractor-trailer, 69-year-old Thomas Humphries of Elwood, left the east side of the roadway in an attempt to avoid the collision. Love’s Hyundai struck the rear tandem axels of the tractor trailer, according to ISP reports.

Humphries was not injured.

Indiana State Police and the Grant County Sheriff’s Department responded to the crash. ISP Senior Trooper A.J. Coffee, who was off duty at the time, arrived first on scene. Coffee, a member of the ISP Crash Reconstructionist Team, remained on scene as the investigating officer for the accident.

The Jonesboro Police Department and Swayzee Volunteer Fire Department assisted at the scene, according to ISP.

“There is no further information to release at this time,” ISP officials said.

Swayzee fire department unveils monument
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Shortly after the attack on the World Trade Center, the Swayzee Fire Department created a monument to honor the 343 firefighters who died on Sept. 11, 2001.

After the Swayzee Days 5k last year, newer firefighters to the department rediscovered the monument and decided to do something different with it.

“We noticed at the end of the race... a stone by some pine trees. I have been coming to this park for the past 15 years and have never noticed it before. After looking we noticed it was in remembrance of those firefighters who lost their lives 20 years ago on this day,” said Swayze Fire Chief Les Frost. “We saw that it was overgrown and not taken care of. Much like how we are forgetting about that day.”

During this year’s Swayzee Days festival, the fire department unveiled a new monument located by the flagpoles at the entrance of Walter Young West Park. The newer monument is topped with a helmet found in the fire station, likely one of the first Swayzee fire department helmets.

The inscripted text dedicates the monument to 9/11 related deaths of firefighters, and invites Swayze firefighters, past, present and future to use the area for reflection.

When Frost took his position 3 years ago, he said he wanted to bring focus back to tradition. The new memorial will add to the tradition of the Swayzee Fire Department.

“This memorial is for each of (the Swayzee firefighters) to come and sit and talk to other firefighters, pray or sit in peace. Past firefighters, this memorial is for you also. Come here, see that the department you were a part of is doing well because of the groundwork you laid out for this generation,” Frost said. “To the future firefighters of Swayzee. This memorial is also for you. Learn about the tradition. See what was done before you. Grab the torch and keep moving forward.”

Assistant Chief Tyler Bundrick said he had mixed emotions on the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

“To me, I feel as a nation, we’re starting to forget a little bit even though we said we never would,” Bundrick said. “So we're just trying to bring awareness back to what happened, so hopefully we don't ever have a repeat event.”

Bundrick said he had recently visited the 9/11 memorial in New York City, and learned about the impact the event had on many people’s, especially firefighters, mental health.

Frost said he hopes to bring awareness to the mental struggles that first responders experience due to their jobs.

“First responders struggle. We see things that not the everyday person sees,” Frost said. “The stigma is: I was always taught to suck it up and move on. Well you can only do that for so long, then it builds and builds.”

According to a 2021 article published by the CDC, law enforcement officers and firefighters are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty, and EMS providers are 1.39 times more likely to die by suicide than the public.

“Firefighter and first responder suicide is growing and I think it's very under reported,” Frost said. “It’s not something that is talked about a lot in this county.”

The Swayzee Fire Department recently gained a therapy dog, and started a support team for first responders to talk with after traumatic instances.

“It's ok to reach out for help. You don't have to be the tough guy or the tough woman,” Frost said. “You can reach out for help. Get help. Don't hold it in.”

Giants run over Anderson for first win of the season

An outstanding effort by the defense and big night by Winston Baity on offense were the key ingredients in the Marion Giants cooking up a homecoming win over Anderson Friday night in Dick Lootens Stadium.

Baity played the role of master chef and his 31-carry, 222-yard, two-touchdown performance provided the Giants with a hearty portion of offense.

Meanwhile Marion’s defense limited the Indians to only 150 yards – 51 on the ground – and most of that came on Anderson’s only scoring drive in the game late in the first half.

The Giants also added fourth-quarter safety and Marques Smith intercepted a pass in the final minute as the garnish on a tasty 16-6 win over their North Central Conference rivals.

“We just talked about let’s remember our fundamentals. Let’s come out and play as hard as you can play and do the things we know how to do,” said Giants coach James Bell. “Then let’s see how we play. That was the difference and that made the difference on both sides of the ball.”

The biggest difference was Baity.

“We have started a tradition of running backs here and he is just picking up where the other ones left off,” Bell said while flashing a broad smile.

In three games this season, Baity has shown the ability to grind out yardage as well as make big plays behind the Giants’ young offensive line.

The only similarity between the Giants’ two scoring drives was Baity finding the end zone and Jimmy Dixon kicking the extra points.

Baity had 10 carries for 36 yards on a strange 19-play, 82-yard series that ran nearly 10 minutes off the first half clock and ended with his eight-yard touchdown run.

The scoreboard went totally dark just as Anderson began its second three-and-out possession to start the game and the officials put more than an extra minute back on the clock than was there before the blackout which seemed to start the strange series of events.

Marion’s first scoring drive also featured four penalties – three by the Giants – a successful fake punt and two turnovers on one snap on the final play of the first quarter.

Giants’ punter David Jones turned a fourth-and-three from Marion’s 46-yard line into a near touchdown when he sprinted around left end for nearly 50 yards before being tackled inside the Anderson 10. However, a holding penalty in the middle of the run limited the gain to just 20 yards, but still resulted in a first down.

Baity made the most important play of the drive after Anderson’s Daris Miles intercepted a pass inside the 20 that momentarily halted the first good scoring opportunity of the game.

Miles had designs on making it a long pick six, but Baity caught him from behind, stripped the ball and Beck Vermilion recovered the fumble on the Indians’ 27. The turnover exchange resulted in a one-yard loss, but a first down for the Giants.

Seven plays later, Baity reached pay dirt with 8:34 to play in the first half.

Baity was gone-in-a-flash for his second touchdown. He sprinted 89 yards on the first play after the Giants’ prevented Anderson from taking the lead late in the third quarter.

A muffed punt recovered by the Indians at Marion’s 15 precipitated a first-and-goal from the three. Juwaun Echols, who scored on a one-yard run late in the second quarter, picked up two yards on first down, but a bad snap on second down sent the Indians back to the 11. Two incomplete passes followed before Baity scored with 3:24 in the third.

Prior to that, Baity’s longest gain was nine yards on the Giants third play from scrimmage.

“I feel like they’re doing good. Only thing I’ve got to do is just talk to them,” Baity said in reference to his offensive line. “They’re young but they’re doing their jobs still. We hit it hard in practice.

“Coach Bell kept yelling at me and I was like let me hit it,” he added of his long TD. “I cut inside and it was just me and (and Anderson defender) so I had to go 100 percent. I thought he was gonna catch me.”

Baity now has 460 yards in three games and is averaging more than six yards a carry.

One area of concern for the Giants was more than 100 yards lost on 12 penalties.

“We still have to become more mentally aware and more mentally tough and that just comes from playing,” Bell said. “We’ve got to continue to play and continue to understand what discipline means. That means doing things right and preparing properly.”

Marion (1-2, 1-1 in NCC) travels to Richmond on Friday.

Water main replacement project coming to NW Indiana.

GARY (AP) — A private utility is launching a more than $24 million water main replacement project in northwestern Indiana.

Indiana American Water plans to replace steel and cast-iron pipes in Gary that are older and have broken frequently, the (Northwest Indiana) Times reported.

About five miles of pipe dating back to the early 1900s are expected to be retired while 11 miles of new water mains will be installed.

“When we purchased this system more than two decades ago, we knew significant investments were needed,” Indiana American Water President Matt Prine said. “Since that time, we have already invested more than $400 million in our water infrastructure in northwest Indiana.”

The investments are expected to improve the reliability of the utility’s distribution system and enhance system flows and firefighting capabilities across Lake and Porter counties, Prine added.

Gary Mayor Jerome Prince said investing in water infrastructure is critical to the success of Gary and all of northwestern Indiana.

“Water from Indiana American Water sourced from Lake Michigan is considered a premium product in the region and is a key part of the high quality of life we depend on every day,” Prince said.

Indiana American Water also has been working to remove about 55,000 lead service lines across the state that were commonly used in construction before World War II. About two-thirds of the lead water lines are located in northwestern Indiana.

Grant County Dems seek candidates to fill Marion City Council vacancy

Following the death of Marion City Council District 5 councilman Don Batchelor, the Grant County Democratic Party is seeking nominations for an upcoming caucus to fill the vacancy.

The Grant County Democratic Party is required to elect a candidate by holding a caucus to replace Batchelor since he won election as the local Democratic Party’s nominee on the ballot when he won reelection in November of 2019. The caucus, which is required by law, must be held within 30 days of an event that causes a vacancy.

The specific date of the caucus has not been set yet, but Grant County Democratic Party officials say statements of interest must be received at least 72 hours before the caucus.

Batchelor died Wednesday Sept. 8 after battling an ongoing illness that caused his seat at council meetings to remain vacant multiple times leading up to his death. Batchelor, a longtime public servant and former Marion Community Schools transportation coordinator, served five terms on Marion City Council. He also volunteered and was active throughout the community, officials said in statements following his death.

“Councilman Batchelor served our community well, and we are grateful for his lifetime of service and leadership,” Grant County Democratic Party Chair Terry Stodghill said in a statement issued Monday. “We know that replacing him won’t be easy, but we hope that an enthusiastic, eligible candidate will step forward to serve out his term.”

To be eligible, candidates must live within the District 5 limits and meet all legal requirements for holding office as a city council member. For more information or if anyone is interested in being considered as a candidate for appointment, email Stodghill at grantco.in.dems@gmail.com.

Party officers are making arrangements for the caucus of precinct committee people who will ultimately decide Batchelor’s replacement.

The Chronicle-Tribune will publish the date and time of the caucus once the Democratic Party of Grant County releases that information.