Cedar Grove, WI Multi-Vehicle Accident, Oct 2002
10 DIE IN 38-CAR CRASH ON HIGHWAY.
Cedar Grove, Wis. (AP) - One by one, 38 cars plowed into a fiery heap of vehicles, the burning wreckage obscured by thick fog.
Sgt. John Jones of the Wisconsin State Patrol said the first officers to arrive at the state's deadliest traffic accident, which claimed 10 lives Friday, rushed just to control the chain-reaction pileup.
"This scene looked like a junkyard fire," Jones said.
Cars were stacked on top of each other, and three cars were crammed into the trailer of a semi. A pair of trucks appeared fused after burning in the intense blaze that engulfed the scene.
"Everybody behind just kept piling up," said motorist Larry Demeny, 45, who was en-route to Milwaukee when he suddenly drove into thick fog, and then veered to avoid the accident. "It was kind of eerie. You couldn't see very far. You would just hear brakes squeal and then the sound of metal clashing. Most of the people didn't see until the very last minute and they hit the brakes, but it was a little bit late."
The first calls of accidents on the foggy stretch of I-43, just west of Lake Michigan, came into the State Patrol and the Sheboygan County Sheriff's Department shortly after 7 a.m.
Officers responding to other crashes on the highway said they had zero visibility. Cars were still ramming into each other, their engines popping as they exploded, when the officers got to the scene.
It might take days for officials to figure out exactly what started the 38-car pileup, but officials said driver error, going too fast for the weather conditions, figured in the wreck.
Reconstructing the accident will be difficult, as most of the vehicles involved had been hit three or four times and some were only identifiable by vehicle identification numbers that are stamped into a metal plate in the car like military dog tags.
Identifying the victims will also be difficult because bodies were so badly burned that officials might have to use DNA evidence.
Many families contacted authorities
about missing relatives, providing vehicle descriptions and other information that will help in the identification process, Jones said.
Some relatives had been contacted Friday night, but authorities had not released any names of the 10 victims. Jones said 36 people were injured, seven critically, one seriously and the others with minor injuries.
Families anxiously awaited word about missing relatives.
Eric Behling usually travels the freeway from Clostberg to Fredonia about the time the crash occurred, said his brother, Todd Behling.
"My brother didn't show up for work today - and he's never late, let alone take a day off," Behling said. "He would have called. That's why I'm not too hopeful right now. The trouble is, no news is bad news right now."
The previous record for fatalities
in a single accident was nine on May 30, 1937, authorities said.
Oshkosh Northwestern Wisconsin 2002-10-11
Listing of Casualties:
DAVID S. (HANS) ARENDT, 42.
DANIEL J. BALINT, 52.
WILLIAM T. BALINT, 26.
ERIC J. BEHLING, 38.
NADINE M. BOLTZ, 49.
RICHARD BENJAMIN DOLL, 25.
ALLEN DOMKE, 63.
DANIEL J. JANQUART, 36.
RACHEL MATT, 24.
KENNETH RAUWERDINK, 45.
A second accident 3 miles away minutes after the major accident killed MALLORY RINN, aged 14.