On Thursday afternoon, a massive pileup on Interstate 94 near Michigan City, Indiana killed three people and injured more than 20 others.
The pileup was caused by an afternoon blizzard, which limited visibility and caused icy conditions on the road. More than 40 cars and semi-trucks were involved in the crash, which closed the highway down for nearly 18 hours.
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.
The injured were rushed to the hospital and an immediate search for cars that might be stuck under 18-wheelers began. The highway was a mangled mess of crumbled metal and debris.
“They’re getting to them as quick as they can, with cranes, wreckers, extrication,” LaPorte County Coroner John Sullivan said. “There’s just so much destruction, they have to tear apart those vehicles and semis and move them little by little to see if there is a car underneath them or under a trailer.”
Tow trucks, cranes, and crews worked rapidly to clear the highway, partially reopening it for traffic on Friday morning. I-94 is a major throughway connecting Chicago with Detroit.
Among the fatalities was Jerry Dalrymple, 65, of Chicago, who was pronounced dead at the scene. His 7-year-old black Labrador, Sparky, was also killed.
The others who didn’t survive were Marilyn and Thomas Wolma, 65 and 67, husband and wife from Grand Rapids, Mich., who the coroner believed were killed by blunt force trauma.
There were at least twenty people injured, some severely enough that they were airlifted to the hospital for immediate treatment.
“Lucky we didn’t have 10 more, you know, from looking at it?” the coroner said. “Thank God we didn’t have any more.”
“It was such a devastating scene, you don’t know where to start,” said Mick Pawlik, a fire chief with the Coolspring Township Volunteer Fire Department. “It was tough out there, especially for a fireman … trying to prioritize who you extricate first. It’s hard to leave one person, and go to check on someone else, but I tell you everybody that was out there worked as a well-oiled machine.”
Pawlik said it took more than four hours to remove all the victims, including one man who rescuers worked on for three hours to remove from a “pocket of vehicles.” He was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill., in critical condition.
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