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Home > Topics > Safety
December 10, 2013

Video: Deadly highway pileup caught on camera during snowstorm

Dozens of vehicles — possibly as many as 90 — were involved in the chain-reaction crash that claimed the life of at least one driver

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

GERMANTOWN, Wis. — A 63-year-old Franklin man has died from injuries suffered Sunday in a massive pileup on Highway 41/45, police said Monday, becoming the third traffic fatality resulting from Sunday's snowfall.

Menomonee Falls police said another person involved in the crash, which shut down the highway for about nine hours, suffered life-threatening injuries.

A woman was killed in a rollover crash Sunday on northbound I-43 at Highway 100 in Milwaukee County, and a man was killed in a multiple-vehicle crash that closed eastbound/southbound I-94 in Racine County for about seven hours Sunday. Snow on Sunday caused dozens of crashes in southeast Wisconsin.

More than 100 vehicles were involved in crashes in Germantown on Sunday, and that number is expected to rise, the police chief said Monday.

The first crash snarled traffic at Highway 41 and County Line Road, involving at least 23 vehicles and causing two injuries, Chief Peter Hoell said.

The next crash occurred at Highway 41 and Lannon Road and involved about 70 vehicles, a number that could rise to 80 or 90, the chief said.

"We are still getting calls today," Hoell said. "If their vehicle was drivable, we try to get them off the highway right away. Others just left."

Six additional accidents involving about a dozen cars occurred on Highway 41 just north of Lannon Road.

"When it's something this big, we would call for mutual aid from Menomonee Falls, the county and state patrol, but there was no one available," Hoell said. "We had to handle it on our own. We basically had a skeleton crew."

At full strength on Sunday, the department had 14 sworn officers and three communications officers at crash scenes and responding to other calls, such as retail theft and family disputes.

"I'm sure for the people who were involved, minutes seems like hours, and unfortunately some people had to sit there, but everyone was attended to," the chief said.

Hoell reminded motorists who are involved in crashes to stay in their vehicle.

"The safest thing, if there's no fire, is to stay in your car, because you're surrounded by metal and are much safer there than if you were a pedestrian," he said.

It's unclear if anyone will be ticketed related to the massive pileup, because the cause remains unknown.

"Some people don't even know which vehicle they hit, they were crashing and spinning out," Hoell said. "We may never know who caused it and if we don't know, then it would be difficult to issue a citation and prove that in court."

Officials in Ozaukee and Racine counties also continued to sort out massive crashes in their areas.

The Ozaukee County sheriff's office estimated that 60 vehicles were involved in a crash Sunday on I-43 near Mequon Road. The sheriff's office is asking motorists involved in the crash who left before a deputy contacted them to call (262) 284-7172.

The pileup Sunday in Racine County that killed one man and injured others began with a minor crash that caused a chain reaction, the Wisconsin State Patrol said Monday.

Two semitrailer trucks stopped for the crash and then were hit from behind by a Chrysler Pacifica, a Ford Escape and a Toyota Camry. The Toyota was then hit from behind by a southbound semitrailer truck. A man in the front passenger seat of the Toyota later died from his injuries.

It took nearly seven hours to reopen I-94 as other crashes were reported in the area.

State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout was hospitalized for injuries she received during a separate crash on I-94 in Racine County.

Snowfall totals varied from two to six inches throughout the region on Sunday.

In Milwaukee, the city slapped tickets on more than 1,000 vehicles for violating the "four-inch rule." The regulation forbids parking on certain streets when there's four or more inches of snow.

Sandy Rusch Walton, speaking for the city's Department of Public Works, said there was no definite time for when the parking rule will end. Violators face a $40 ticket.

To find out whether the four-inch rule applies to your street, check the city's winter parking regulations.

In addition to rock salt, the city Sunday morning also employed cheese brine, a byproduct of cheesemaking, to help clear snow. The city is trying out the effectiveness of the smelly, salty liquid as part of a pilot program. Walton said it's too early to tell how well the cheese brine works because the weather grew too cold for the brine to be effective.

Copyright 2013 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

All Rights Reserved

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