Frozen Equipment Delays Reopening Of I-94

UPDATE 11:53 pm: Officials confirm that westbound I-94 has reopened.

GALESBURG, Mich. (WWJ/AP) — An effort to reopen Interstate 94 in southwestern Michigan stalled Saturday as crews tried to safely remove acid from a tanker truck, one of 193 vehicles involved in an extraordinary pileup a day earlier on the snowy highway.

Equipment problems related to cold weather were affecting the acid cleanup, said First Lt. James Coleman of the Michigan State Police.

“The valve on the pump froze. … We’re not in a position to say when (I-94) will reopen,” Coleman told the Kalamazoo Gazette.

The number of vehicles involved in crashes Friday has fluctuated, but state police finally settled on 193, including dozens of semis. A Canadian trucker, Jean Larocque, 57, of Saint-Chrysostome, Quebec, was killed and about two dozen people were taken to hospitals.

“You saw the scene, everybody saw it on television — 193 vehicles,” Coleman said. “We’ve made great progress. It’s phenomenal how everybody has come together.”

A truck carrying fireworks caught fire, triggering a spectacular explosion of the cargo. That driver was not hurt.

State police Lt. Dale Hinz said towing so many vehicles was “brutal” overnight, with temperatures barely above zero.

Ryan Bovee, 35, said his car was struck by a van, although he was allowed to drive away a few hours after the chain of crashes in Kalamazoo County, 150 miles east of Chicago.

“You just kept hearing the crunches of the vehicles hitting,” he said. It was unreal.”

Two firefighters who were injured while attempting to extinguish fires from vehicles.

Police said approximately 50 cars and trucks remained in westbound lanes Saturday morning and four trucks are in eastbound lanes.

“One of the things that is slowing down the cleanup is having to transfer the chemicals from the one damaged trailer to another damaged trailer,” State Police Sgt. Scott Leroy told WWJ Newsradio 950’s Lauren Barthold. “At this point, there is still no estimate as to when the roads are going to be reopened.”

Work to clear the scene has been described as “brutal,” especially with temperatures barely above zero.

MORE: I-94 Still Closed After Massive 193 Vehicle Pileup

Massive Pileup Crash Involving Truck Hauling Fireworks Shuts Down I-94 [VIDEO]

 

TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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