20-car pileup in the Benton Harbor area shuts down I-94 for hours

January 04, 2011|By Colleen Ferreira (

BENTON HARBOR — A 20 car pile-up shut down I-94 for about two hours Tuesday afternoon.

It all started about 2:30.

Although there were no serious injuries, some say the scare factor was enough to keep their hearts pounding.

It was an unexpected road trip to Benton Harbor for Jan and Chuck Cohen from Chicago.

They arrived around 5 p.m. to clean out their daughter's beat up car.

"You hear about these things happening and it’s the phone call you don't want to get," said Chuck Cohen.

The Cohens' 20-year-old daughter, Jamie, was driving one of about 20 cars involved in a sudden pileup on I-94 Tuesday afternoon.

It's no surprise that I-94 is bad news when the lake-effect snow hits, but for unfamiliar drivers, it was a shock.


“They’re young kids,” said Cohen. “They're not used to that experience, obviously, it's pretty traumatic."

Cohen and two friends were driving back to school at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor when the snow started to fall and the road froze.

All three young women were taken to the hospital with minor injuries.

They’re expected to be OK.

The aftermath of the pile up went way beyond Jamie Cohen’s beat up silver sedan.

“I was pretty shocked when I saw the car,” Jamie’s father said. “She made it sound like, oh one of the doors got smashed in, but it's much worse that I thought it would be."

The accident also involved trucks and trailers as well.

Those vehicles were pretty damaged as well from the multi-vehicle accident.

“It’s just the small amount of snowfall we had put a glaze on the road surface, making it an icy surface,” said Lt. Robert Boyce from the Berrien County Sherrif’s Department.

Lt. Boyce said black ice was most likely the culprit of the chaos.

Hasse's Towing and Crane in Benton Harbor joined Indiana State Police on the scene of the accident. Lt. Boyce said ISP were closer to the scene at the time, so they responded to the accident.

Hasse's Towing said it was déjà vu: The images of today's crash took them back to the whiteout of 2003, when 72 cars on westbound I-94 lost control.

For now, the Cohens say their daughter won't be driving that route to school anymore.

“All that really matters is that everyone's OK,” Chuck Cohen said. “A car's a car; you can replace that."

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