On Wednesday, June 8, at 4:27am, the Van Buren Fire Department was dispatched to Westbound I-94 near the Southport Apartments (between Haggerty and Belleville roads) for a tanker accident with an explosion.
As responding fire engines approached the scene, debris from a major crash littered several hundred feet of westbound I-94, and Van Buren Police Officers were already on scene.
Engine 2’s crew arrived at 4:33am and found the driver of one of the semi’s in the median of I-94 being treated by Huron Valley Ambulance Paramedics, that had just arrived on scene.
The man had suffered major burns to approximately 80% of his body and almost all of his clothing had burned off of him. Witnesses travelling through the area stopped to assist him just prior to the arrival of paramedics and described him as being engulfed in fire as he exited the cab.
The driver, a 27 year-old Windsor, Ontario resident was rushed by ground ambulance, with fire personnel assisting, to the Burn Center at the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor. At the time of this release he is still listed in critical condition at the Burn Center.
Other arriving fire engines began to set up equipment to battle the fire that had engulfed the tractor and trailer full of Crown Royal Whiskey. This truck had been driven by the patient and operated by Wolverine Trucking (Jackson, MI).
A second tractor with an attached flatbed steel hauler was also involved in fire. This vehicle was stationary on the right shoulder of westbound I-94 at the time of the collision and was determined to be unoccupied after the fire was extinguished and the fire department conducted an exhaustive search of the cab and sleeper.
The Michigan State Police was attempting to contact the owner/ operator of the steel hauler, who resides in the Southport Apartments, but had been unsuccessful.
Due to limited water and foam supplies Mutual Aid assistance was called for from the Belleville and Romulus Fire Departments.
Van Buren Police Officers initially set up traffic control blocking off westbound I-94 at Haggerty Road until MDOT provided resources to shut westbound I-94 at I-275.
Parts of the I-94 North Service Drive were shut down during portions of the incident due to the heat being produced by the fire and gawkers that had stopped and were potentially putting themselves in harm’s way.
At 8:48 a.m., a traffic crash occurred on the North I-94 Service Drive at Southport Apartments requiring both the police and fire departments to respond. The crash appeared to be caused by a distracted driver paying attention to the activities on I-94.
An extensive cleanup and vehicle removal took place, along with the extinguishing of small fires that flared up when debris was moved throughout the morning.
Heavy Wreckers from J&T Towing and specialty clean-up equipment from the Terra Company was brought in to remove the debris in compliance with the Michigan Departments of Environmental Quality and Natural Resources.
The fire department cleared at 12:16 p.m. after using about 100 gallons of specialized foam, 10 large bags of safety absorbent, and 8,500 gallons of water during the incident. Engine 1, Engine 2, Engine 3, Engine 4, Rescue 1, Chief 1, Tac-1, Utility 1, and Utility 2 were used on scene.
— Van Buren Township Fire Lt. Dan Besson, Public Information Officer