At least one person is dead, 16 others are injured after as many as 150 vehicles collided in a massive pileup that eventually overran both the east and westbound lanes of Interstate 94 between Galesburg and Battle Creek, Mich. According to the Michigan State Police, there has only been one confirmed fatality so far – a trucker from Ottawa, Ontario.
Lt. Rick Pazder, a spokesman for the state police, said emergency responders have been battling severe winter weather conditions, as well as fires and hazmat concerns at the scene. The interstate has been closed in both directions from Exit 88 east of Galesburg to Exit 92 west of Battle Creek, since about 10 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 9, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation.
“We’re beginning to investigate the scene and remove vehicles,” Pazder said Friday afternoon in a phone interview with “Land Line Now.” “That section of I-94 will probably be shut down for the remainder of (Friday).”
Among the hazmat concerns – at least one tractor-trailer hauling an acid caught fire, as did a semi hauling a load of fireworks. Flames eventually ignited the fireworks cargo, causing an explosion. Pazder said law enforcement initially set up a one-mile safety perimeter around the scene.
“Initially, it was a car hauler that caught on fire, and that also caused a problem,” he said. “As you can imagine, when cars pile up it’s really difficult for fire crews to get right into the epicenter of some of these things.”
At press time, the name of the confirmed fatality – a trucker from Ottawa, Ontario – had not been released. At least 16 people are being treated at area hospitals for injuries related to the crashes.
“We’re hoping that number doesn’t climb any,” Pazder said.
According to reports, the pileup started in the eastbound lane of I-94, but spread to the westbound lanes in a chain reaction. About a half foot of snow fell on the Battle Creek area from Thursday afternoon until Friday morning. Local reports indicate that road conditions were made worse by high winds, some in excess of 30 miles per hour.
Pazder said that although the investigation into the exact cause of the crash is underway, a cause has yet to be determined. He acknowledged that weather conditions at the time of the crash may have been a factor.
“At the time we had blowing snow, poor visibility and white-out conditions,” he said. “It would be easy to surmise that that contributed to the crash.”
“Land Line Now” News Anchor Reed Black contributed to this report.
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