Paint spills when semi overturns; closes I-94

Published 11:57 pm Friday, August 27, 2004

By Staff
ST. JOSEPH - A semi-truck hauling 250 gallons of yellow paint and 500 gallons of paint thinner turned over and spilled its load all over the roadway early this morning, closing westbound I-94 in Berrien County's New Buffalo Township.
The Berrien County Sheriff's Office was working what became a two-vehicle accident involving hazardous materials just east of the U.S. 12 off-ramp (Exit 4).
Chief Deputy William Marx reported the first crash involving the paint occurred at 12:40 a.m. The vehicle lost control for unknown reasons.
As the driver of this semi attempted to crawl out of the overturned truck, a second semi struck the overturned truck, sending the driver and overturned semi into the median.
New Buffalo Township Fire Department was on the scene, Marx stated, however no fire had been reported. The fire department assisted in removing the injured driver from the scene.
The unknown injured driver of the first semi was thought to have head injuries. The driver was taken to Lakeland Hospital in St. Joseph by Medic 1 ambulance service. The driver was transferred to Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo in critical condition.
Marx said the Michigan Department of Transportation rerouted traffic around the crash site. Westbound vehicles were being ramped off at Townline Road/Elm Valley Road or Exit 6.
Traffic was sent westbound on Townline Road to Red Arrow Highway, then south to U.S. 12, then east on U.S. 12 and back to I-94 westbound.
From the scene, Sheriff's Sgt. Tim Ganus advised that the second semi had been removed, with wreckers still working on removing the first truck.
The removal operation began around 3 a.m. after Sheriff's Office investigators completed their work recording and documenting evidence at the scene. Five wreckers were there throughout the night working on removing the two extensively damaged semis.
Ganus reported at 8:02 a.m. that the second semi was close to being removed and should be out of the way in the next hour.
The New Buffalo Fire Department was able to spray enough water on the roadway to remove the water-based paint before it dried. The second problem was the approximately 500 gallons of flammable paint thinner which spilled from the truck in the median. Young's Environmental Co. of Grand Rapids has been contracted by the trucking companies to clean up the spilled products and was just arriving on the scene. It was not yet known what the extent of the clean-up would be or how it would affect daytime traffic on I-94.
One lane of westbound I-94 had reopened, with traffic moving slowly. Motorists were urged to avoid the area by using southbound Red Arrow Highway.