A vehicle that was destroyed by fire on Interstate 77 Friday afternoon in Guernsey County is believed to have been a distraction that led to a three-vehicle crash that injured a Port Washington man.

The injured motorist, identified as Harold Westhauer, was treated in the emergency department at Southeastern Med and later transferred to another hospital, according to a nursing supervisor at the Cambridge hospital. Neither the extent of Westhauer’s injuries nor his current condition were known as of press time Saturday.

Westhauer was transported to the hospital by United Ambulance. The drivers of the other two vehicles involved in the accident were not injured, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol. 

The vehicle involved in the fire was a total loss, although the driver, a Florida resident, was able to escape uninjured.

According to the highway patrol’s Cambridge post, a Miami resident had flown to Canton-Akron Airport to retrieve a 2007 Dodge van purchased from a a vehicle auction and was en route back to Florida when the van caught fire near mile post 50 at approximately 3:17 p.m.

Cambridge firefighters were dispatched to the scene along with the highway patrol. A patrol trooper reported the van was fully engulfed in flames when he arrived at the scene on the southbound lanes of I-77.

The unidentified driver reported the vehicle lost power, causing him to pull to the berm. Once the van came to a stop, the driver observed flames near the dashboard and exited the vehicle.

As emergency responders were handling the fire, a compact vehicle driven by Westhauer struck the rear of a Jeep driven by Andrew McElroy, whose age and address were not available as of press time, as traffic on the northbound lanes slowed due to the fire.

The impact caused the Jeep to strike the rear of a 2011 Lexus driven by Timothy Dore of Amherst. The compact driven by Westhauer sustained extensive damage while moderate damage was reported to the other vehicles.

The incidents remained under investigation by the patrol’s Cambridge post.