SLINGER — Officials with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office have released 911 calls that came in after the massive, chain-reaction crash on I-41 near Slinger that happened Monday, March 13th as snow fell in SE Wisconsin.
That crash involved approximately 60 vehicles, and shut down I-41 for hours.
“There’s a giant pileup! They are flying up. Nobody knows it’s here,” one 911 caller said.
Four 911 calls were released on Wednesday:
One semi driver told the 911 dispatcher there was nothing he could do to avoid crashing.
“We’re on 41 headed southbound. I popped over the top of the hill and there’s a bunch of trucks and trailers. I put on my brakes and I slid right on down in,” the caller said.
“There’s a massive pileup and a semi just flipped over behind me and it’s on its side with the driver still inside,” a caller said.
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, with help from several towing companies.
Paul Williams with Ralph’s Towing was one of those working to get the four remaining semis out of the area on Tuesday night.
“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.
“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.
“It was chaos,” Scott Wiedmeyer with Ralph’s Towing said.
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.
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.
“(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.
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.
On Tuesday, 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.
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.