GALESBURG, Mich. (WWJ/AP) – A state transportation spokesman says speed and “driver behavior” are to blame for a 193-vehicle pileup that killed one man and closed a stretch of Interstate 94 for two days.
Nick Schirripa told the Kalamazoo Gazette that “people were driving too fast and following too closely on an icy freeway during a white-out,” causing several chain-reaction crashes Friday morning near Galesburg in Kalamazoo County.
The crashes were reported between mile markers 88 and 92, but had nothing to do with the highway’s design, Schirripa said.
“If the highway was six lanes instead of four, it just means we would have had six lanes blocked,” he said. “This boiled down to driver behavior.”
Authorities released some harrowing 911 calls from motorists involved and witnessing the pileup.
During the incident, a truck carrying fireworks caught fire, triggering a spectacular explosion of the cargo. A 57-year-old truck driver from Ottawa, Canada, was killed and about two dozen people were taken to hospitals — including two firefighters who were injured while attempting to extinguish fires from vehicles.
State police say the chain-reaction crashes in the westbound lanes likely started with drivers distracted by an earlier pileup on eastbound I-94.
In the end, the pile-up in the westbound lanes involved more vehicles, the Gazette reported — 59 semi-tractor trailer trucks and 83 cars, compared to 26 semis and 34 cars in the eastbound side.
Efforts to reopen the highway stalled Saturday as crews tried to remove acid from a tanker truck. All lanes were reopened early Sunday.
The Transportation Department is reviewing the crashes to determine what lessons can be learned from the responses to the accidents and the cleanup, Schirripa said.
A 300-foot section of the eastbound lanes was charred by fire and will have to be replaced.
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