HARTFORD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — One person was killed in a 44-vehicle pileup on I-94 in southwest Michigan on Sunday — one of three wrecks on the same stretch of highway, police say.
The pileups happened around 2 p.m. on I-94 between Hartford and Watervliet, Michigan State Police on scene said.
The first crash involved eight passenger vehicles and a semi-truck in the eastbound lanes. It resulted in minor injuries and caused a traffic backup.
Then, about a quarter of a mile west of the first crash, two semis crashed in the eastbound lanes, starting a chain-reaction pileup that involved 42 more vehicles. The wreck involved a total of 38 passenger vehicles and six semis.
One person was killed, three sustained life-threatening injuries and 11 more were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.
MSP initially said that two people were dead, but later revised that statement, saying “life-saving measures by paramedics en route to the hospital resulted … in a critical care status for one patient instead of a fatality.”
One of the 11 people who sustained non-life-threatening injuries was a Van Buren County sheriff’s deputy who was hit by a passenger vehicle while he was outside of his cruiser helping another victim with a broken leg.
Around the same time as the 44-vehicle wreck, there was another 12-car pileup in the westbound lanes about one mile east of Hartford. The crash involved six passenger vehicles and six semis and caused only minor injuries.
Police said the 44-vehicle and 12-vehicle crashes appear to have been caused by drivers who were going too fast for conditions and following too closely, and also by poor visibility.
Eastbound I-94 was closed between Watervliet and Hartford and the westbound lanes were shut down between Decatur and Watervliet for about six hours as authorities cleaned up. MSP said it pushed the westbound closure back as far as Decatur in an effort to prevent more crashes because there was slow traffic and lake-effect snow.
MSP said Hartford Public Schools provided buses to bring people who were involved in the wreck but weren’t hurt to the Hartford Federated Church, where the American Red Cross was helping. Troopers interviewed everyone, then took people back to the crash scene to pick up vehicles that weren’t too damaged to drive.
A park-and-ride in Hartford was being used as a sort of staging area to bring damaged vehicles.
MSP troopers from Paw Paw, Niles and Marshall responded to the pileups, as did the Van Buren County and Berrien County sheriff’s departments, Hartford and Pokagon Tribal police, and the Van Buren County dispatch center. MSP also said the Emergency Operations Center was activated.