Indiana Crash: \'There\'s Just So Much Destruction\'

“Drivers were trapped in their vehicles. There were cars on top of cars, semis on top of semis,” said Michigan City Deputy Fire Chief Judd Rose. “It was just a mangled mess.”

Rescuers armed with cranes, wreckers and extrication tools worked through the night untangling a crush of more than 40 semi trucks and cars that collided in white-out conditions Thursday afternoon.

Three people were killed, including a 65-year-old Chicago man. As many as 20 were injured, some airlifted to hospitals. The wreckage was so massive the eastbound lanes of I-94 remained closed until Friday morning.

“There's just so much destruction, they have to tear apart those vehicles and semis and move them little by little to see if there is a car underneath them or under a trailer,” said LaPorte County Coroner John Sullivan.

Jerry Dalrymple, 65, of Chicago, was pronounced dead at the scene, apparently from blunt force trauma, the coroner's office said. Also killed were a husband and wife from Grand Rapids, Mich. The coroner's office identified them as Marilyn J. Wolma, 65, and Thomas D. Wolma, 67. They had been coming home from Wisconsin after caring for an ill relative.

“Lucky we didn't have 10 more, you know, from looking at it,” Sullivan said. “Thank God we didn't have any more.”

For the rescuers, Thursday's disaster required steely nerves, compassion and quick thinking.

Mick Pawlik was laying tile in his kitchen when his pager went off, and within minutes the volunteer fire chief found himself in a “war zone.”

“People are trapped and twisted and you see the fear in their eyes,'' said Pawlik, 55, a retired utility worker. “When people are stuck in their cars, they look at you like we're Moses. Part the waters and save us. We can't show no fear or panic.”

He and other firefighters from the Coolspring Township Volunteer Fire Department near Michigan City quickly and quietly went about their jobs, checking the wreckage for signs of life. Sometimes they didn't even realize there were cars pinned under semis until they got close.

Pawlik said he tried to “get human” with the people who were trapped to calm them down. He talked to them, asked their names and sometimes joked.

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Indiana Crash: \'There\'s Just So Much Destruction\'


Indiana Crash: \'There\'s Just So Much Destruction\'