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Posted on Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 8:37 a.m.

Eastbound I-94 closed Saturday morning near Ann Arbor after fatal crash

By Paula Gardner


Crews were removing a damaged vehicle from the I-94 crash scene at about 10 a.m. Saturday.

Daniel Brenner |

Michigan State Police are investigating a fatal crash on I-94 Saturday morning.

The incident also left two other people in critical condition, according to information from the Pittsfield Township Fire Department.

The Washtenaw County Sheriff's office alerted motorists that eastbound I-94 would be closed at Ann Arbor Saline Road starting at about 8:30 a.m. due to the accident investigation. It was reopened about 11:15 a.m.

The crash was reported just after 8 a.m. and it involved three vehicles, Pittsfield Township fire officials said.

One victim was pronounced dead at the scene.

"Two patients in (another) one of the vehicles were pinned in and required extended extrication," according to a news release.

Firefighters from Ann Arbor also responded to the scene.

Drivers in the area on Saturday morning reported extensive backups on I-94. The backups are believed to have been a result of Michigan Department of Transportation work on I-94 between US-23 and South State.

That work included both a ramp and single lane closure from midnight until 7 a.m. as MDOT employees installed a sign on a post that extended over the highway.

This story will be updated as information becomes available.


Rescue crews responded to the scene of the fatal crash Saturday morning.

Daniel Brenner |


The crash on I-94 on Saturday morning closed the eastbound lanes of I-94 for more than an hour.

Daniel Brenner |



Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 9 p.m.

A couple of comments from somebody who knew the victim..... It is highly DOUBTFUL and not anywhere mentioned by the police that he was using a cell phone. So please STOP making assumptions that are unfounded. That stretch of road IS highly subject to sun in your eyes syndrome at that hour of the day, not saying that WAS the issue but placing 100% of the blame on the victim is NOT warranted. MDOT should have posted the closure or called in the police to help when it became apparent that the scheduled 15 minutes was going to turn into an hour or more. There are curves that DO make it hard to see stopped traffic in time with a 70MPH speed limit (which if you abide by on that stretch of road you get honked at and flipped off continuously for.....pushing the average driver to drive AT LEAST 75 whether they want to or not), especially if there were any other factors such as sun..... ABOVE ALL.......this was an ACCIDENT..... 100% of blame does not need to be put on any parties involved.....that's why it's called and ACCIDENT. My thoughts and prayers to his wife and children PERIOD!


Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 11 p.m.

I was in the stopped traffic east of the accident for 1.5 hours. When it got going again I skipped what I was going to do and returned to a High School tournament. I drove by the accident and couldn't help but think that likely someone crashed into a stopped car. That has yet to be determined, but it should remind us that we never know the impact we may have on others. Someone made a decision that stopped traffic on an interstate that may have led to that accident. My point is try to think of others and "Do the Right Thing" is a good motto. Also please don't use your cell phone while driving.

Paula Gardner

Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 9:58 p.m.

Here's the update: Also, one thing that's unclear to me is whether the drivers were instructed to drive the wrong way on the shoulder to exit the highway. It sounds like that may have been one of the purposes of closing the highway at Ann Arbor Saline Road. I'm hoping that can be clarified as the police report is done and troopers are available to provide more info.

Paula Gardner

Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 9:22 p.m.

I'm writing an update to this story now. There is more information on the victims, and I've received some preliminary info from MDOT. It should be posted by 6.


Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 9:12 p.m.

My wife and I passed this accident going west bound at approximately 9:00am this morning. In fact, it is our gray car in the left lane in the third photo above (I remember the trucks I was passing prior to our exit and my wife remembers we were following a black vehicle). Luckily I was busy driving and couldn't look at the wreckage. My wife wishes she hadn't. I did note the outside thermometer on our car was only reading 29 degrees at the time. Black Ice may have ben a major contributor.


Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 9:05 p.m.

I was stuck in the non moving traffic on I-94 near State this morning. Once you went around the curve, traffic was at a standstill. The construction sign had said activity until 7 a.m. It was after 7 a.m. and they were still working. The biggest problem was that traffic was standing still, and numerous cars were going on the right side shoulder to go ahead. Those cars then had to turn around and come back the WRONG direction on the shoulder. Others followed, and there were many cars going the wrong way on the shoulder back towards State. Eventually when a fire truck was trying to come through, it could not, and was delayed, until these cars could finally get out of the way. These drivers should be ticketed.


Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 9:24 p.m.

That is even worse than what I originally perceived from these comments. No excuse for driving the wrong way on the shoulder. Keeping emergency vehicles from getting to the scene is inexcusable! You could only hope that the driver's license plates were photographed by law enforcement.

zip the cat

Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 8:34 p.m.

There are 2 seasons in michigan Winter and road construction season. Till the snow flies and the cold weather sets in it will be orange barrells . So all of you people who have had it up to your eye balls with road work. Put up with it or move Stop tailgateing people slow down put your makeup on at home and not in your car while driveing Eat your breakfast at home or at work and not in your car. I saw a guy the other day driving down I-94 in his big black suv with his paper over the steering wheel steerting with his knees,I guess because he had a cell phone in one hand and a coffee in the other. And you wonder why there are so many wrecks


Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 7:34 p.m.

I just wish all of this freeway construction would end for the year. I do not understand what kind of construction is going on on I 94 and US 23.


Sun, Nov 4, 2012 : 6:28 a.m.

Say that again. The "Construction" all year effect on I-94 has gotten a wee bit ridiculous. Also it seems that a road sign could have been placed between 2:00 AM -5:00 AM in the morning (when normally traffic would be less) instead when folks have to travel to work on a early Saturday Morning (which is very normal). My prayers and condolences go to the family who lost their Father, Spouse, possibly Uncle, Cousin and for sure Friend; along with prayers for recovery for the other victims of this accident.

Are you serious?

Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 7:01 p.m.

It is absolutely stunning to me that so many posters can tell us exactly what happened. Let's all just take a deep breath and let the police accident investigators do their job. That said I have also driven that section of I-94 for many years. It is like any other stretch of freeway - you have to be attentive and careful at all times.


Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 7:25 p.m.

I think that everyone in a situation perceives of it in their own way. The people on here who are relating what they saw are not trying to undermine the official's assessment, but are just trying to make sense of a very bad situation they witnessed. I see no need to be "stunned" by their accounts. Of course we will wait for the results of the accident investigation, but that doesn't mean it will be released to the general public.


Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 6:31 p.m.

This is from the MDOT site: "Ramp Closure - Map - Sat 11/3/12, 12 AM to Sat 11/3/12, 7 AM Eastbound I-94 to Southbound US-23 ramp. Details: Expect a ramp closure for a 4 hour period for cantilever sign installation. Contact: Brighton TSC 810-227-4681 Washtenaw County Expires this morning. Last updated: 11/02/12 9:49 AM"


Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 6:12 p.m.

From all of the accounts on here this sounds like a "perfect storm" of conditions that made it possible for this to happen. My heart goes out to the family and loved ones of the deceased and injured.

Becky Williams Hall

Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 5:28 p.m.

A very dangerous stretch of road at that time of the day when the sun is in your eyes.

4 Fingers

Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 5:16 p.m.

The road wasn't closed- traffic was backed up due to construction. They were putting another info sign up by 94 and 23. The sign at 1-94 near Jackson rd was posting its usual 21 minutes to 275 message. I would think that MDOT would post a traffic back up message, there, no?

say it plain

Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 5:15 p.m.

Wow, that is so awful! Of course the ridiculous lack of warning to motorists had to have been a factor in this terrible accident. How could you possibly not warn motorists appropriately in early morning conditions with poor lighting conditions of sunrise on the highway?! How could your only sign be of lane closures from 12am to 4am and then still be at it hours later and not have emergency vehicles on the road giving drivers warning of the roadblock? Is it *always* the 'unexpected' that throws us off on the roads and causes accidents. How could our road officials drop the ball like that? It seems they have gotten totally cavalier in so many ways about citizen safety, from the poor condition of half of our roads to their "hey, we do what we want when we want" attitudes about construction projects. So many times lately in Ann Arbor I have found myself in 'delays' with roads being worked on and lights being re-timed such that backups were comically terrible and with no warning. This is more of the same, it might be, but with *fatal* consequences.

Paula Gardner

Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 4:17 p.m.

Reporting update: MSP expects to issue a release about the crash before 1 p.m. They had no one available to speak with me, but I'm hoping to get the detail about the traffic backups before the crash in that release - as well as information on the victims' ages and hometowns. I'm also trying to reach MDOT and the Washtenaw County Road Commission, but with no luck so far.

Greg Zeller

Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 5:09 p.m.

The name of the person that passed away was Sean and he would of been 44 on Tuesday.


Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 4:16 p.m.



Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 6:56 p.m.

It is clear that the wrong way drivers were doing so on the entrance ramp to avoid the traffic backup. It appears that this is just a horrible accident. If the highway department showed proper warning this accident could have been avoided.


Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 3:56 p.m.

The backup was caused by the new sign being put up. The accident was caused by someone making a mistake on the road the most everyone else doesn't... We shouldn't be playing the blame game...but if you're going to point a finger you better make sure you point it at the right person not the convenient person.


Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 9:06 p.m.

The most everyone else doesn't? Can you explain further?


Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 3:53 p.m.

Wouldn't it have made sense to put up signs before the State St. exit telling drivers the road was closed and they couldn't go any farther? Just closing a freeway like that with no warning is like a giant middle finger to anybody that might be using the road at that time.


Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 3:28 p.m.

I-94 is now open.

Paula Gardner

Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 3:37 p.m.

Thanks for adding this. I just put it into the story - I got the alert that it was open while I was on I-94 checking to see if crews were still out there. Lots of signs/barrels remain in the area between US-23 and South State on the eastbound side, but no one was working in that area as I drove by at about 11:15.


Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 3:01 p.m.

I travel that stretch of highway daily. If your eastbound I94, you can't see the backup at State street because of the curve in I94 just before the exit. It's really bad between 5 and 6:30pm. Not unusual to see hard or emergency braking.

Matt Cooper

Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 4:52 p.m.

I've lived in Ann Arbor nearly 42 years and lived on that side of town for nearly 30 of those years. I've driven that part if 94 in both directions thousands of times. To say that you can't see a traffic backup at State street is simply not true. If you are driving cautiously and within the speed limit, there is no obstacle you cannot see, and there are certainly no curves in the highway so severe that you can't see them coming at you. Yes, traffic gets backed up there during the afternoon rush hour, sometimes bumper-to-bumper, but it has never, at least in the thousands of times I've driven it, been so bad as to be an obstruction you can't see well in advance. My prayers are going out to the deceased and their families, as well as to the injured and their loved ones. I wish them a speedy recovery. I hope everyone uses this as a reminder to drive cautiously, stay in the speed limit, and leave yourself plenty of room between yourself and the vehicle in front of you. Accidents like this don't have to happen, and people don't have to die if we all drive safely.

Paula Gardner

Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 2:33 p.m.

Thank you for the detail on the road conditions before the crash. I just added a new photo that shows the wreckage. It's horrifying to realize what happened to this car.

Paula Gardner

Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 1:39 p.m.

Were you out there this morning? It's been difficult to reach anyone on this crash so far. If you have more info on that backup and sign install, I'd welcome you adding it to these comments.


Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 9:03 p.m.

I was just getting off work at 7:30 and stopped just short of the on ramp at State Street. I saw people trying to turn around on the on ramp and a few cops pulling people over. I had no clue what was going on. I was able to avoid this whole thing. Last night driving to work was the same deal. Traffic for as far as the eye can see on the east bound side. I am sorry to learn there was an accident this morning.


Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 3:06 p.m.

I didn't actually see it happen, but I heard it as I was exiting at State St right around 8:00 this morning. As I was heading east on 94, there were signs saying that the ramp at 23would be closed from 12 am - 4 am, other than that, there was no indication that anything was going on. I came around the curve right before the State Street exit and saw all the break lights. I was thinking to myself that I was glad to be getting off the highway at that point. As I proceeded up the exit, I heard a large crash and looked over to see the silver pickup smashed into what looked like was a small black car. I wasn't sure if that was the crash I heard or not, but now it seems like that must have been it. As I got to the top of the exit ramp, the police had the east bound entrance closed, and you could see cars coming the wrong way off the ramp. When I came back through around 10:15, the backup was gone, but it looked like they were still investigating and 94 was still closed at Ann Arbor Saline. I hope to never hear that awful sound again, and my thoughts are with the families of those involved.


Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 2:29 p.m.

I was stopped in it at 7:40 just after state street. There was no warning other than the brake lights and became stand still. Around 815 there were sirens and in my mirror I could see about a half mile or more behind me where they were headed. The sun was coming up and I can imagine it was difficult to see all the brake lights. No one expects this kind of back up/ traffic that early on a sat morning (unless home game). After an hour of sitting I ended up gettin back on 94 and heading home. I counted 9 fire trucks and the cars involved were completely destroyed. Made my heart sink for those involved and their families. I wonder had there been better preparation on notifying people of the random Saturday morning multi lane closure for a sign to be installed that this could have been avoided. So sad to see and a blessing in disguise that I didn't leave 10 minutes later.


Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 2:12 p.m.

It is so difficult to believe the mentality of drivers that see one person getting out of a backup by going the wrong way and then, go ahead and do it themselves. What can be so important on a Saturday morning to make one do this?


Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 2:01 p.m.

I was in the traffic backup. They closed eastbound i94 at us 23 around 0715. They were replacing an over the highway road sign at 94/23. I was stuck in traffic on eastbound I94 at state st. People were turning around on the highway ramps and going the wrong way. With eastbound traffic coming around the turn from Ann arbor saline and meeting stopped traffic and cars turnIng around to avoid the backup I'm sure contributed to the accident. I did not witness the accident but I witnessed many people going wrong way on ramps. Ann arbor police tried to stop some and pulled a couple over but were overwhelmed. Poor planning IMHO.


Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 1:09 p.m.

All because of a new sign being put up at 94 near 23 that shut down the highway and caused a backup. Sad


Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 2:33 p.m.

So, to be clear (based on your response to Paula below), the cause was not highway construction. The cause was impatient divers doing something that was wildly wrong--driving the wrong way on an interstate highway. Construction did not cause this accident. Human failure did.


Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 2:23 p.m.

And drivers not paying attention.


Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 2:22 p.m.

Because I'm in the know.


Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 1:41 p.m.

Why do you say that?