BATTLE CREEK, Michigan (WOOD) – In 40 minutes of 911 call recordings, panic can be heard in the voices of drivers caught up in the Friday pileups on I-94 west of Battle Creek, Michigan that left one person dead.
The pileups on both side of the highway between Galesburg and Battle Creek involved a total of 193 vehicles. A truck driver from Canada was killed and 22 others were hospitalized.
In some of the calls, citizens on the line are crying. In many, callers can be heard barely restraining panic.
“OK, I want you to shut up and listen to me very carefully,” a caller, nearly shouting, says immediately after a dispatcher answers the phone. “I’m at the 95 yard line on Interstate 94. The eastbound side is completely shut down. We’ve got diesel fuel leaking out of several tankers. You need to get a hazmat team out here. You need some heavy-duty wreckers.”
The calls narrate what happened after 76 semi-trucks (one of which was hauling hazardous material and another that was carrying fireworks) and 117 passenger vehicles wrecked on the highway.
“We’ve got a semi driver that inside that’s hurt really bad,” another 911 caller can be heard reporting.
“That big accident on I-94, one of the semi-trucks just set on fire,” another caller says.
That fire caused the fireworks in one of the semi-trucks to explode and destroyed several vehicles.
Dispatchers can be heard in the recordings trying to calm drivers, reassuring them that emergency responders are on the way.
“There is a semi on top of me,” a crying driver tells a dispatcher.
“Ma’am, ma’am, I need you to stay calm,” the dispatcher tells her. “You’re not hurt and that’s all we care about, OK. Everything else can be replaced in this world except for you guys.”
“Are you in that big pileup?” another dispatcher asks in another call.
“Yeah,” the caller replies.
“Good enough. I got people coming your way,” the dispatcher says.