Eastbound lanes of Interstate 94 remained closed in Northwest Indiana Friday morning after a massive pileup Thursday killed three people, including a Chicago man, and injured more than 20 others.
A Cranes and wreckers were brought in to help clear the scene, and school buses were being summoned to help warm people who were stuck in the pileup.
The crash happened about 3:30 p.m. Thursday and involved more than 40 vehicles about three miles east of Michigan City.
Indiana State Police confirmed the three deaths and said the toll could rise because cars were trapped under semitrailers and hadn’t been searched.
Jerry Dalrymple, 66, of the 9000 block of South Bell in Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood, was pronounced dead at the scene, according to LaPorte County Coroner John Sullivan.
The Chicago man appears to have died from blunt force trauma, Sullivan said. A golden retriever that was in a vehicle with Dalrymple was also killed in the crash.
The other two people killed in the crash were a husband and wife from Grand Rapids, Mich., Sullivan said. Marilyn J. Wolma, 65, was pronounced dead at the scene, while her 67-year-old husband, Thomas D. Wolma, was taken to Franciscan St. Anthony Health in Michigan City, where he died shortly after the crash.
The couple was returning to Michigan from Wisconsin, where they had been taking care of an ill relative, their son told the coroner’s office. Their apparent cause of death was also blunt force trauma, Sullivan said.
“It’s looking grim. There may be many more fatalities,” Sullivan told WLS-TV. “The clock is working against us.”
Coroners from surrounding counties were asked to go to the scene.
Photos of the scene showed at least a dozen semitrailers jammed together the width of the highway near an overpass. Some passenger vehicles were sandwiched in the wreckage. Indiana State Police said the accident involved about 15 semitrailers and five passenger vehicles and pickup trucks.
Dixie Juchcinski told WMAQ-TV that the accident occurred during a snowstorm.
“When we first came to a stop, it was a complete whiteout,” Juchcinski said. “It was kind of a surprise to us because we could only see one or two cars in front of us.”
National Weather Service meteorologist Evan Bentley said heavy snow was reported in the area at the time of the crash. He said a band of lake effect snow moved in late in the afternoon, dropping 1 to 2 inches of snow an hour and reducing visibility to a quarter-mile or less, with some reports of visibility near zero.
Luke Wilusz, the Associated Press, Post-Tribune correspondent Carrie Napoleon contributed to this report.