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Massive Pile-Up Snares 123 Cars On Michigan Interstate

Some 123 cars were caught by a massive crash that shut down Interstate 94 in Michigan Friday. One fatality was reported, from a scene a witness calls "unreal." Several vehicles caught on fire, including a semi carrying fireworks; video footage shows flames and smoke billowing out amid a barrage of explosions.

A second truck that crashed was carrying some 44,000 pounds of hazardous material, Michigan Radio reports, citing state police. That brought on an evacuation order for the immediate area, which was later lifted.

"The last update we have had was that 23 people sustained injuries that required hospitalization," Michigan's State Police said this afternoon.

Police activated the state emergency operations center to cope with the crash, which spanned between mile markers 88 and 92 in Kalamazoo County. That's where treacherous road conditions brought chaos to I-94, which connects Detroit and Ann Arbor in the east to Kalamazoo and Lake Michigan in the west.

Driver Ryan Bovee, who was involved in what seems to have been one of the first collisions, said the trouble began around 9:15 this morning, just after he realized that most of the road was coated by ice. Not long afterward, a van hit the rear of his car, and he hit the car in front of him.

Here's how Michigan Live relays what Bovee saw after he heard a "boom, boom, boom" of cars piling up behind him:

"After the collisions in the eastbound lane, Bovee said he watched as cars and semi-trucks began crashing in the highway's westbound lanes. Bovee said he counted some 70 vehicles in the westbound lanes of I-94 and was told by a fireman that at least 50 vehicles crashed in the eastbound lanes.

" 'All of a sudden, that just turned into a sh— show,' Bovee said of the westbound lanes. 'It was just unreal watching all of those people. ... You just kept hearing the crunches of the vehicles hitting. It was unreal.' "

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.

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