I-41 closed near Slinger Tuesday night for removal of semis after chain-reaction crash: “It was chaos”

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SLINGER -- I-41 was closed between State Highway 60 and State Highway 145 Tuesday night, March 14th to allow for the removal of four semis that remained along the roadway after Monday's chain-reaction crash that involved approximately 60 vehicles, as snow fell in SE Wisconsin.

The roadway reopened Wednesday morning.

The Washington County Sheriff's Office and Wisconsin State Patrol removed these vehicles.

Interstate 41 southbound will be closed at State Highway 60 to all traffic starting at 7:00 p.m. Tuesday. It'll reopen around midnight Wednesday.

NO southbound traffic will be allowed to enter onto I-41 from State Highway 60. All southbound traffic will be routed off at State Highway 60. Southbound traffic should continue East on State Highway 60 to Highway 45 southbound.

Interstate 41 northbound will have a lane closure near the accident scene starting at approximately 8:30 p.m. I-41 northbound traffic can continue north at this time, but it is asked that motorists reduce speeds and use extra caution.

There will be a period of time after 8:30 p.m. that Interstate 41 northbound will be closed to all traffic. When that happens, northbound traffic will be routed onto Highway 45 northbound at the split. The on-ramp to I-41 from Highway 145 will be closed at that time. When re-routed, northbound traffic should exit at State Highway 60 and continue WEST to I-41 northbound.

It is anticipated that the northbound closure will re-open during the morning hours of March 15th.

Paul Williams with Ralph's Towing was one of those working to get the four remaining semis out of the area on Tuesday night.

Semis on I-41 near Slinger after chain-reaction crash

"The call was made (Monday) that it was time to get the highway opened up and what was laying was staying there for the night. They didn't want to impede traffic anymore, so they decided to let things go until Tuesday. Getting the trucks whipped back into shape as best as we can from all the chaos. It's kind of an eerie sight driving through -- seeing (the semis). It's not something you see every day," Williams said.

Williams said three towing companies were working together Tuesday night to get the tough job done.

Semis on I-41 near Slinger after chain-reaction crash

"The loads are always the hardest part about it -- especially this one where you have one on its side and the top of the trailer is broke open. We have to remove the load (rolls of paper) before we can upright the trailer," Williams said.

This all began Monday morning -- around 10:45, as snow fell. Officials with the Washington County Sheriff's Office said a chain-reaction, multiple-vehicle crash happened on I-41 between Sherman Road and Hillside Road in the Town of Polk.

"The biggest one that I can remember," Paul Williams with Ralph's Towing said.

Semis on I-41 near Slinger after chain-reaction crash

"It was chaos," Scott Wiedmeyer with Ralph's Towing said.

Scott Wiedmeyer

Wiedmeyer said every available tow truck in the area made multiple trips -- hauling vehicles out of the ditch. His tow truck had to drive the wrong way on the closed freeway to provide help.

"Everybody worked together in doing their part, from the fire to the police to us. Everyone did their part and it was great," Wiedmeyer said.

There were approximately 30 vehicles directly involved in the crash -- including eight semis, three heavy trucks (such as dump trucks and box-cargo trucks) and at least 12 passenger vehicles.

Additionally, there were 30 vehicles that wound up leaving the roadway as a result of the initial chain-reaction crash.

These vehicles weren't damaged. They were removed from the ditch and allowed to continue.

One of the drivers involved in this crash said he had no choice but to wedge his vehicle in the space in between two semis.

Chain-reaction crash on I-41 near Slinger on Monday, March 13th

I-41SB was CLOSED for more than six hours. There were five people transported to area hospitals, all with non-life threatening injuries.

Wiedmeyer said he's never seen anything like it. He said he's shocked no one was seriously hurt or killed -- especially after taking a look at the damage.

Chain-reaction crash on I-41 near Slinger on Monday, March 13th

"(You have to) keep people calm, because you got people in the cars down in the ditch and they're worried and they're shaken," Wiedmeyer said.

Crews with Ralph's Towing had a very busy Monday -- helping stranded drivers. In fact, as a side note, Ralph's friend George, who suffered a stroke, and his caregiver accidentally put George's car in the ditch at his home, so Ralph sent out one of his tow trucks, free of charge.

"I help everybody. We enjoy being good to people," Ralph said.

Ralph and George at Ralph's Towing

George was in tears when he came to Ralph's Towing Tuesday to say thank you.

"Thank Ralph for supplying the wrecker to get my car out," George said.

They were busy Monday -- but not too busy to help a friend.


Meanwhile, Sheriff's officials said it may take several weeks to conclude the investigation into the chain-reaction crash on I-41 near Slinger.

Semis on I-41 near Slinger after chain-reaction crash

On Tuesday, at the Pioneer Travel Plaza, insurance adjusters were out assessing the damage.

Sheriff's officials said this incident may have been a result of another multi-unit crash backup that was being handled by the State Patrol just south of this scene.

Contributing to all of these incidents, Sheriff's officials said, was drivers driving too fast on the snow covered roads -- and whiteout conditions.

Semis on I-41 near Slinger after chain-reaction crash

Separately on Monday, 18 vehicles were involved in a chain-reaction crash on I-41 near the 41/45 split near Richfield.

The two left lanes of I-41/US 45 northbound were CLOSED at Cedar Creek near Richfield -- near the I-41/45 split on Monday afternoon.

Wisconsin State Patrol officials later said 18 vehicles were involved in this chain-reaction crash, including five semis and 13 passenger vehicles. Two people suffered minor injuries.

Officials responded to 97 crash related calls involving an estimated 300 units between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. in Washington County.