Michigan State Police cite 63 drivers in I-94 massive pileup

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | Thursday, March 19, 2015

A January crash on Interstate 94 in Michigan that left one trucker dead and damaged close to 200 vehicles has resulted in 63 driver citations, according to a news release from the Michigan State Police.

The Jan. 9 pileup near Climax, Mich., completely shut down both eastbound and westbound lanes of traffic for two days, and left drivers and rescue workers battling severe winter weather and numerous fires in attempt to do search and rescue missions.

Authorities say the primary cause of the crashes was drivers traveling too fast for the roadway conditions. 

“This crash is a vivid illustration of the dangers of traveling too fast on icy and snowy roads,” Lt. Dale Hinz, MSP Paw Paw Post Commander said in a statement issued Thursday. “As drivers, we are responsible for controlling our vehicles at all times, no matter the weather or roadway conditions.”

The first crash occurred at approximately 9:20 a.m. in the eastbound lanes during a period of heavy snow, when a semi-truck rear-ended a van, causing the van to collide with a passenger car. The van then collided with the guardrail on the south side of I-94, coming to rest perpendicular to the lanes of travel. The van was blocking the right shoulder and a portion of the right lane, while the passenger car came to rest on the median side of eastbound I-94 after striking the cable median barrier. In total, 60 vehicles (26 commercial vehicles and 34 passenger vehicles) were involved in the eastbound crash.

The westbound crash began approximately 3-5 minutes after the eastbound crash when motorists, distracted by the crash in the eastbound lanes, lost control of their vehicles starting a multi-vehicle crash on the westbound side. The westbound crash involved a total of 133 vehicles (50 commercial vehicles and 83 passenger vehicles). The total accident scene spanned approximately 1,440 feet.

The release states that 12 commercial vehicle drivers and nine passenger vehicle drivers were cited for speeding in the eastbound crash. Another 18 CMV drivers and 19 passenger vehicle drivers were cited in the westbound crash. The investigation also revealed three drivers driving without insurance, one driver with no operator’s license and one driver with an improper registration plate. These drivers will also be cited for these offenses. Citations are being mailed or delivered beginning today, according to the release.  

The release also stated that MSP will work with the Michigan Truck Safety Commission and its Canadian counterpart to raise awareness among commercial drivers about the dangers of speeding in such conditions, in hopes of preventing future crashes.

A crash in the eastbound lane resulted in the death of 57-year-old Jean Larocque of Ottawa, Ontario. A total of 18 people from seven states and Canada were treated for injuries. Five emergency services workers were also treated for minor injuries sustained during the response to the incident.

The eastbound crash was further complicated by a tanker hauling 44,600 pounds of liquid formic acid that had overturned next to a semi-truck loaded with 40,000 pounds of fireworks. The two trucks, as well as the formic acid, began to burn, necessitating the issuance of an evacuation order until the fire could be extinguished.

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