Vehicle-pedestrian crash led to 1 of 4 multi-car crashes on Metro freeways

At least four multiple-vehicle crashes, including one involving more than 50 cars, injured at least 17 people and closed Metro Detroit freeways Sunday as heavy snow returned to the region, authorities said. 

Most crash sites were cleared and lanes reopened by Sunday evening, even as the National Weather Service warned of continued heavy snowfall in parts of Metro Detroit between Interstate 96/696 and Interstate 94 corridors with near whiteout conditions.

Crashes roiled traffic from Wayne County to Macomb County due to "driver-error" events in falling snow and white-out conditions. 

What appeared to be the largest pileup, with more than 50 cars, occurred on I-96 east of Grand River Road, according to David Fornell, deputy fire commissioner for the Detroit Fire Department, which had transported 17 motorists to hospitals.

One person was in critical condition, Fornell said; the others were in stable condition. 

A driver on I-96 express lanes near Grand River was involved in an earlier crash, Michigan State Police said. The driver exited his vehicle to check the damage and another driver couldn't stop and struck his vehicle, pushing it into the driver who had exited his car, according to MSP. The man was pushed into the retaining wall of the freeway and was taken to a hospital with critical head injuries.

Crashes, largely cleared up by nightfall, were reported here:  

►East and westbound Interstate 696 closed from Interstate 275, Interstate 96 and M-5  to Orchard Lake Road in Oakland County, authorities said. MDOT announced shortly before 6 p.m. that all lanes had reopened. 

►Westbound Interstate 696 at Hoover in Macomb County due to a multi-car pileup, said Diane Cross, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Transportation. The scene has been cleared, MDOT reported. 

►I-696 reopened after closing at Van Dyke in Warren, according to MSP.  

►Eastbound I-96 express lanes, east of M-39, closed due to a crash, and the ramps from M-39 to eastbound I-96 closed, according to MDOT. It reopened near 6 p.m.

►Eastbound I-96 closed at Grand River in the Farmington area, including the express lanes.

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Pileup on Interstate 696 in Farmington Hills

The westbound exit ramp from M-5 to I-696 was closed, as was the I-275 ramp to I-696 east, MDOT said. 

►Westbound Interstate 94 after Outer Drive was cleared after a crash.

Shaw blamed the crashes on careless driving.

“I never worry about a 12- to 15-foot snow in Metro Detroit,” Shaw said. “I worry about 1 to 2 inches, because drivers continue driving just as fast as if there was no snow at all. They continue to tailgate each other, they continue to use their phones, and this is basically what happens.

“You have one car that may spin out or have to stop, the next car can’t, and the next car can’t, and next thing you know you have a multi-car crash. These are accidents, these are crashes. They’re driver-error events that should not happen with one to two inches of snow.”

Traffic on I-696 eastbound was redirected to I-696 westbound due to the closing of I-696 at I-275 because of a multiple-vehicle crash.

Whiteout conditions may have led to some of the crashes and were reported in areas with heaviest snowfall, including the I-96/696 corridor, according to Ian Lee, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in White Lake Township. 

Southbound M-10 at Wyoming in Detroit reopened after closing due to a crash, MDOT's Southeast Michigan Transportation Operations Center reported at about 3:30.

Disabled vehicles litter the westbound lanes of Interstate 696 west of Hoover Road in Warren after a snow-related, multi-vehicle traffic accident Sunday.

Photos and videos posted on social media show vehicles sliding on the freeway and colliding with vehicles or spinning off the freeway.

Photos posted after the pileups show long lines of vehicles not moving or inching along.

Disabled vehicles were scattered on the westbound lanes of Interstate 696 in Center Line after a multi-vehicle crash Sunday afternoon.

"Keep those eyes on the road and not on the phone," MSP tweeted. 

halbarghouthi@detroitnews.com

@HaniBarghouthi