Nation

Burst of snow triggered big Indiana pile-up

This cell phone image shows a massive highway pileup on Interstate 94 near Michigan City, Ind.

Matt Carpenter/Sun-Times Media, via AP

This cell phone image shows a massive highway pileup on Interstate 94 near Michigan City, Ind.

MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. — Cars were mangled, and some were burned despite the blowing snow. Other vehicles were crushed between jackknifed semi-tractors, so entwined that it was difficult to tell them apart.

People were screaming, but emergency responders could not see many of them as they quickly tended to victims amid frigid conditions.

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Within seconds, traffic along snow-covered Interstate 94 in northern Indiana had become a milelong pile of debris after whiteout conditions swept in during the Thursday evening commute. Three people were killed and nearly two dozen were injured.

‘‘It was such a devastating scene, you don’t know where to start,’’ said Coolspring Township Fire Chief Mick Pawlik, whose volunteers were among the first on the scene 60 miles south of Chicago.

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Rescuers set about prioritizing the victims based on the severity of their injuries.

The chain-reaction collision was triggered by a burst of heavy lake-effect snow that took drivers by surprise, said Indiana State Police Lieutenant Jerry Williams. In 45 seconds, dozens of vehicles — including numerous other trucks — crashed into one another.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

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