A crash in the eastbound lanes of I-94 in Michigan quickly escalated into a pileup of more than 150 cars and tractor trailers near Battle Creek Friday morning, killing one person and injuring several others. The 150-vehicle pileup eventually led to the closing of a large section of the interstate highway in both directions.
Michigan State Police say a snowstorm passing through the state Friday that shut down area schools made conditions difficult and dangerous for motorists. After a few vehicles crashed in the eastbound lanes, more and more vehicles continued to pile up in the west bound lanes, striking each other and the median barricades and stopping traffic for miles in icy 12-degree weather.
Emergency shelters were set up in nearby schools to get many of the uninjured motorists out of the cold.
Michigan State Police said that a truck driver from Ottawa, Canada, lost his life in the pileup. It wasn’t immediately clear how many other injuries were involved, but local hospitals reported taking in at least a dozen crash victims for treatment, some in serious and critical condition.
A fire that broke out among the wrecked vehicles exacerbated the situation, hindering rescue operations and setting off a truckload of fireworks that continually exploded over the scene.
Hazmat crews also arrived at the scene to start cleaning up an acid spill from a chemical truck involved in the crash. The spill prompted authorities to urge nearby residents who hadn’t already evacuated to stay in their homes until emergency workers got the situation under control. Motorists in a three-mile radius were also evacuated from the roads.
One law enforcement official described the pileup as a “very chaotic situation,” the Detroit Free Press reported.
The stretch of I-94 between Battle Creek and Galesburg is expected to remain closed until early tomorrow morning as crews continue to tow vehicles from the scene and clean up.