Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Fiery semi explosion closes Interstate 94 in Racine County; at least two killed, multiple injured

At least two people were killed Wednesday when a semi jumped the median, fell from the freeway and exploded, closing one of the state's busiest roadways for hours.
Investigators from the Racine County Medical Examiner's Office were dispatched to the fiery crash that has closed all northbound and southbound lanes on I-94 at County K near Mount Pleasant.
Two people were killed and "multiple people" were injured in the crash, according to Racine County Medical Examiner Michael Payne.  
A WTMJ-TV photographer who witnessed the crash told the Associated Press that the semi jumped the median on I-94 near Highway 20 in Caledonia about 11 a.m., caught fire and exploded. The photographer says at least two other vehicles were set on fire.
The first emergency units dispatched to the scene reported seeing a heavy cloud of black smoke but radioed to dispatchers that they were having trouble reaching the scene because of gridlocked traffic, according to emergency radio traffic.
“We have multiple victims here right now that need help,” an officer who reached the scene reported to dispatchers.
"They were going southbound. We have multiple vehicles in flames. We're still assessing how many victims we've got," another officer radioed to dispatchers.  
"I have one victim with severe burns to his arm and his head," a rescuer radioed to dispatchers.
The freeway, one of the busiest in the state, was completely closed for hours and surface roads in the area were crowded as well as motorists found their way off the freeway.
While the DOT had not announced the reopening of southbound lanes, traffic did appear to be moving south as of 3 p.m.
At 1 p.m. Oak Creek police, who were closing the southbound lanes at Ryan Rd., reported a 4-car accident southbound at Drexel, adding to the problems. 
One victim was taken to Froedtert Hospital, according to a spokesperson there, but they were not expecting more patients.
Another victim was taken to Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital in Milwaukee, which is home to the regional burn Center.
Flight for Life, the regional emergency medical helicopter was called to the scene but could not fly because of bad weather conditions, said Tammy Chatman, a public information officer for the service. 
The organization sent one of its ground units, which has the same capabilities as the helicopter, Chatman said.  
Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s Regional Burn Center has been placed on alert for the  I-94 accident but were not able to comment on the situation.
Racine-based South Shore Consolidated Fire Department has sent paramedics and at least one ambulance to the scene. 
The crash was reported about 11 a.m. and the highway was expected to be closed for more than two hours, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
 The interstate is completely closed from Highway 20 to Highway G and both the east and west frontage roads are closed, according to the Racine County Sheriff's Office, which said the crash involved multiple vehicles.
Southbound traffic is being directed to exit at Ryan Road, then west to US Highway 45, then south to Highway 20 and east back to I-94, according to the DOT.
Northbound traffic is to exit at Hwy 20, east to Hwy 31, north to Ryan Road and west back to I-94, according to the DOT.

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