DETROIT (WWJ) - At least 30 vehicles were involved in a pileup along southbound I-75, just north of the Rouge River Bridge. State police confirmed three people were killed, including two children. Multiple people were hurt.
Southbound I-75 has reopened after it was shut down for several hours, between Springwells and Dearborn Street, in River Rouge near the Detroit border.
Michigan State Police Lt. Mike Shaw said there were six to seven crashes, and, at one time, at least 100 vehicles were backed up along a one-and-a-half-mile stretch.
Those killed included a 6-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl, both from Windsor. The third victim was an Allen Park man who has not yet been publicly identified.
Twelve or more people were transported to area hospitals, most with back, neck and head injuries. At least two of those hospitalized were reported in critical condition, including the mother of the deceased children.
Dozens of fire engines and police vehicles responded to the scene. Warming buses arrived to assist motorists whose cars were blocked in.
“I’ve never seen anything like that before,” said witness Steve Kendler of Novi, who observed the scene from the northbound side. ”There are mangled and tangled semis and cars; and then, about a quarter-mile down the road, there’s another set of accidents where semis are all tangled with cars; and, about another half-mile down there road, there’s another accident.”
“There’s multiple trucks just all tangled up. And part of it, in the very first accident, the cap on the semi is almost sheared off,” Kendler said. ”These trucks just look like they’ve been … like a can opener. It’s unbelievable. They’re just mangled and all over the place.”
Multiple cars were seen crushed up against the median and some motorists, at one point, were trapped in their cars. Several vehicles were overturned and twisted metal litter the freeway,
Firefighters on the scene called for as many as 20 ambulances, referring to it as a “terrible catastrophe.” One firefighter rushing by WWJ’s Kathryn Larson to assist victims said it was a “true nightmare.”
Tipsters calling into the WWJ Newsroom said driving conditions at the time of the accident were treacherous with high winds, icy roads and poor viability due to a snow squall.
Semi driver Phillip Bost who was hauling auto parts was involved in the pileup.
“I passed Springwells — nothing bout a whiteout, couldn’t see a thing,” Bost said. “I started slowing down. I started hearing people crashing and running into one another. I stopped as soon as I could … I got hit and I got out to see if I could help the people that were injured.”
MDOT’s Rob Morosi said bridges and overpasses are always the first to surfaces to freeze. He said with the cold temperatures and strong winds Thursday morning, the salt is just not as effective as it normally would be.
Nearby resident Phyllis Angeles was out for a walk when she saw what happened. “It’s terrible … people need to slow down more so they can have more time to brake,” she said. “It’s one of the worst wrecks. I really started praying as soon as I seen it.”
A state police investigation is underway. Lt. Shaw said it may be several days before they are able to sort out exactly what happened.
For the latest from the roads, keep it tuned to WWJ Newsradio 950 for traffic and weather, every 10 minutes on the 8s. To check for backups anytime, visit our traffic page.