Fatigue, speed blamed for crash that spilled 1,000 gallons paint

Published 12:04 am Saturday, August 28, 2004

By Staff
ST. JOSEPH - Berrien County Sheriff's Office accident investigator Sgt. Don Goulooze provided this additional information regarding the crash on I-94 early Friday.
Westbound I-94 at the 4 1/2-mile marker was closed from 12:40 a.m. until 7:30 a.m. Friday morning.
Two semi truck accidents spilled approximately 1,000 gallons of yellow automotive paint on the highway.
In the first accident a semi driven by Gjergi Kalaj, 40, of Rochester Hills, was westbound on I-94 when he drove off into the median.
As he tried to drive back onto the highway, his semi rolled over onto the driver's side.
At that time two-500 gallon tanks of yellow automotive paint spilled out onto the roadway.
As Kalaj attempted to get out of his truck, it was hit by a second westbound semi driven by Charles Russell, 55, of Paw Paw.
In the second accident, Russell was westbound on I-94, drove around stopped traffic from the first accident and did not see the rolled-over semi.
Russell was unable to stop in time and struck the cab area of Kalaj's semi as he was trying to get out. The impact flipped Kalaj's semi around into the median, throwing him out of his truck. The impact also broke open the two paint tanks, spilling the paint across the westbound lanes. Russell's load of appliances did not spill.
Both Kalaj and Russell were transported by Medic ambulance to Lakeland Hospital in St. Joseph.
Kalaj was later transported to Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo, where he was listed in critical condition. Russell was listed in serious condition.
Berrien County's haz-mat unit was called out for the spill, which was cleaned up by Youngs Environmental Service of Grand Rapids.
Kalaj is a driver for TST Expedited Inc. of Windsor Canada.
Russell drives for On Track Transportation, South Elgin, Ill.
A third semi was also involved as it was stopped for the first accident, when the second accident took place.
Yellow paint sprayed over his truck, but there were no injuries to that driver.
The accidents remain under investigation, but fatigue and speed appear to be factors at this time.