MSP trooper recalls massive I-94 pile up one year later

Posted at 6:40 AM, Jan 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-09 06:40:13-05

KALAMAZOO COUNTY, Mich. — Jan. 9th 2016 marks one year since a massive pileup shut down I-94 in southern West Michigan.

Multiple fiery crashes had the highway shut down with both lanes finally reopening almost two days later.  193 cars and trucks were involved, all smashing together during white out conditions.

The pileups happened on both the east and westbound lanes of the highway.

Trooper Jim Gochanour was first on scene that day.

"It was just surreal," he said "Because you can't see past the crash, it covered such a massive distance from side to side and with the smoke and the weather I really didn't realize exactly the volume of how many vehicles were involved initially."

The chain reaction crash left one person dead and several others hospitalized.  Debris remained out on the roadway for weeks and a very lengthy investigation was conducted.

Gochanour said it's a day he might never forget.

"There was a lot going through my head at the time, you're dealing with subzero temps, you're dealing with the weather,  all of these things start to come into play real quick," he told FOX 17.

"I remember that first evening as we started to go through the crash scene and walking through, as you'd come around a vehicle  and you'd see another vehicle; it's like how did anybody get out of that vehicle and survive."

Hazmat crews were called in during the crashes to clean up the spilled formic acid.  People living within a three mile radius were evacuated from their homes.

Investigators spent months interviewing witnesses and those involved, and reviewing pictures and videos.

Michigan State Police issued citations to 63 people.  Investigators said most drivers were traveling too fast for the conditions and others were cited for other, unrelated issues.