One semitrailer driver fatally swerved into a ditch while trying to avoid the fiery crash
Two people died on Wednesday after a semitrailer driver hit a construction barrier, setting off a three-car crash that led a second semitrailer driver to fatally swerve into a ditch, authorities say.
Authorities in Racine, Wisconsin, received multiple calls about crashes, fires and explosions around 11 a.m., Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said in a Wednesday news conference. Photos and videos of the scene showed vehicles on fire and in pieces and a victim receiving aid along the road.
The incident unfolded when a semitrailer, southbound on Interstate 94, attempted to change lanes and hit a construction barrier.
“As a result of hitting that construction barrier that semitrailer driver over-corrected it appears and ultimately hit that medium wall,” Schmaling said, adding that the semitrailer “literally shoved that median wall into now the northbound lanes.”
That caused three passenger cars to crash, Schmaling said.
With that, the driver of a northbound semitrailer, unrelated to the initial crash, “made a decision to take a very evasive maneuver” and drove into a ditch to avoid hitting the already-crashed vehicles, the sheriff continued. The semitrailer, like the first, burst into flames.
Two people in the passenger cars suffered serious injuries and the third was uninjured.
Schamling praised the second semitrailer driver for swerving away from the crash.
“I think this unfortunate deceased individual is a hero … by turning down and risking his own life to avoid crashing into innocent people,” he said, according to WISN.
The semitrailer plunged about 30 feet off the highway and onto East Frontage Road, WISN reported. Witnesses reported seeing a large smoke cloud after hearing what they believed to be thunder, according to the station.
“I was in my room watching TV, and I heard an explosion, and I had my door open and I came and looked and saw that trailer down and saw an explosion happen,” Tom Gross told the station.
Interstate 94 was closed for nearly 10 hours after the crash, according to WITI.