2 children, 1 adult die in Detroit freeway pileup

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 1, 2013 at 4:44 pm •  Published: February 1, 2013
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DETROIT (AP) — It took only seconds for the light snow to turn into a blinding curtain of white. Drivers slammed on their brakes, others swerved to avoid tractor-trailers jackknifed across a busy Detroit freeway that quickly turned into a mile-long string of wrecks.

Three people were killed, including two children. The maze of mangled vehicles closed Interstate 75 for several hours after the Thursday morning chain-reaction wrecks that sent more than a dozen people to hospitals.

Ken Czarnecki recalled quickly swerving to avoid a stopped truck in his lane, then glancing off the side of a car wedged beneath another truck before striking the back of a semi-trailer. The falling snow, he said, took only moments to thicken.

"It was a total white sheet," Czarnecki said. "You couldn't see past the front of your car."

A 7-year-old boy from Ontario, Canada, and his 9-year-old stepsister were killed. Their mother and 10-year-old sister were in critical condition in Detroit hospitals, and their father was in good condition, said Michigan State Police Lt. Michael Shaw.

Menelaos Manolis, 54, of nearby Allen Park, also was killed. The Wayne County medical examiner's office reported Friday that Manolis died of multiple injuries from the accident.

No other information about the victims has been released.

Police estimated that as many as 30 cars, SUVs and semi-trailers were crushed, buckled or damaged along the freeway, which cuts through a heavily industrialized part of the city and nearby communities. Semi-trailers and tankers dominate the interstate, some hauling loads and liquids to a nearby refinery and steel companies.

The freeway's surface was slick Thursday as temperatures in the Detroit area dropped by about 30 degrees from the previous day — to only 24 degrees at the time of the pileup, along with strong winds. The accidents happened near an elevated stretch of expressway where the road surface can cool quickly and make driving hazardous, said National Weather Service meteorologist Bryan Tilley.

Conditions for drivers went from "clear to total whiteout in a matter of seconds," Shaw said. "All of a sudden, they couldn't see anymore."

Motorists and passengers who were able to climb out of their vehicles huddled together on the side of the road, some visibly distraught, others looking dazed. A man and woman hugged under the gray, cloud-filled skies, a pair of suitcases next to them and a bumper on the ground behind.



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