[Photo from Indiana State Police]
Troopers with the Indiana State Police continue to investigate a massive pileup in blinding snow that resulted in three fatalities on eastbound Interstate 94 near Michigan City Thursday afternoon. At least twenty people were hurt. Officials say of the 46 vehicles involved, 19 were semis. Several passenger cars were crushed between the semis, and some ended up underneath the big rigs. Indiana State Police are predicting the investigation to take several weeks to complete. “It just turned into slide off, crash, crash and then multiplied into what we have now,” said Indiana State Police Sgt. Ann Wojas. The names of the injured will not be released until the entire investigation is complete. Investigating officers with state police are indicating that snow and whiteout conditions were contributing factors. LaPorte County Coroners officials says a 66-year-old Chicago man and his dog and a couple from Grand Rapids, Michigan, were killed. Their identities have not yet been released pending notification of next of kin. LaPorte County Coroner John Sullivan, says a band of lake effect snow hit the area. I-94 “just became a sheet of ice and that's what led to all this, because of the blowing, blinding snow,” Sullivan said.
The crashes occurred on I-94 eastbound between the 35.5 - 36.5 mile-markers. With tow trucks, cranes and portable lights, emergency crews launched desperate rescue operations that turned into a race against the clock to protect survivors from the extreme cold. Michigan City Police provided a bus to serve as a warming station for first responders, and the American Red Cross was on scene providing food and drink to responders.
As of 5-o'clock this morning (Fri 1/24/14) CST, the eastbound side of I-94 was still closed from SR 49 (exit 26) to US 35 (exit 40 in LaPorte area). The westbound lanes of I-94 have reopened, but are still described as very icy.
We also received a report that traveling eastbound on the Indiana Toll Road is still very bad with snow on the road once you reach the LaPorte area.