DETROIT (AP) — Blinding snow squalls, high winds and a slick highway led to a mile-long series of crashes in Detroit that left at least three people dead Thursday, including a 7-year-old boy and 9-year-old girl.
Michigan State Police Lt. Michael Shaw said visibility was extremely poor when the mass of crashes happened on Interstate 75 on the southwest side of the city. At least 13 people were rushed to hospitals, and others were treated at the scene, Shaw said.
SUVs with smashed front ends and cars with doors hanging open sat scattered across the debris-littered highway, some crunched against jackknifed tractor-trailers and tankers. Rescue crews went vehicle to vehicle in the search for survivors and to provide aid. About 30 vehicles were involved in the morning accident.
Shaw said the two children who were killed are believed to be siblings, and their parents were hurt in the wreck. He said the boy died at the scene, and the girl died at a local hospital.
Shaw said the family is believed to be from Windsor, Ontario, across the Detroit River in Canada. None of the victims' names has been released.
A similar pileup west of Indianapolis involving about 35 vehicles closed Interstate 70 in both directions. Authorities said five people remained hospitalized Thursday evening, including one in critical condition, and the interstate was closed for several hours.
In Detroit, the pileups were along a stretch of busy freeway that 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.
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.
Conditions went from "clear to total whiteout in a matter of seconds," Shaw said. "All of a sudden, they couldn't see anymore."
The bad weather also is being blamed for at least two other pileups in Michigan. U.S. 23 in Mundy Township near Flint was closed for several hours after 33 vehicles crashed during a sudden snow squall. In southwest Michigan, eight tractor-trailers and six cars crashed on I-94, closing the westbound lanes to traffic at Paw Paw for several hours.
In Detroit, scores of vehicles that escaped damage were trapped on the freeway behind the accident scene for hours. Both directions of I-75 were reopened by mid-afternoon.