Massive I-94 pile-up kills 3

White-out conditions cause massive pile-up near Michigan City, Ind.

January 24, 2014

"It was such a devastating scene"

—Mick Pawlik

Interstate 94 was reopened this morning after cranes and tow trucks worked through the night to untangle a crush of more than 40 semis and cars that collided in near blizzard conditions near Michigan City, Ind., killing three people, and injuring 20.

The massive pile-up occurred Thursday afternoon on the eastbound stretch of Interstate 94 connecting Chicago with Detroit.

The Northwest Indiana Times reported police blamed whiteout conditions for multiple crashes on I-94 including the fatal crash. Eastbound traffic was backed up for miles and westbound traffic was moving at a crawl, WLS-TV, Chicago, reported.

Conditions very quickly changed from clear to near-whiteout at the time of the crash. State police Lt. Jerry Williams said there was a sudden burst of heavy lake-effect snow that took everyone by surprise.

Several vehicles spun out and the traffic behind them was unable to stop in time. In all, 46 vehicles, including 15 tractor-trailers were involved in the crash. Several cars were crushed between the trucks and some slid underneath them.

“It was such a devastating scene,” said Fire Chief Mick Pawlik with the Coolspring Volunteer Fire Department. “It’ll live with us forever. It was brutal,” he said. “You can train all day long, but until you get out there, it’s totally different.”

Troopers and firefighters scrambled in the dark and cold, searching for victims. Helicopters were called in to rush the most seriously injured to hospitals.

Buses were sent to the scene to provide warmth and shelter for those involved in the crash.

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