Chesterton Tribune



Cocoa powder and lithium batteries don't mix in I-94 crash near Burns Harbor today

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Five hours after one semi sideswiped another on eastbound I-94 in Burns Harbor, traffic was “still a disaster,” with motorists being diverted onto U.S. Highway 20, the Burns Harbor Fire Department reported at 9 a.m. today.

According to the Indiana State Police, at 3:43 a.m. trucker Radmilo Samardzio, 70, of Ballwin, Mo., was eastbound on I-94 when he pulled into the “gore area”--the striped triangle separating mainline I-94 from the Burns Harbor exit ramp--to open a bottle of water. Samardzio advised police that he activated his emergency hazard lights.

Samardzio’s trailer was then struck, however, by a second semi, operated by Steven S. Dare, 57, of Hudsonville, Mich., who advised police that, while reaching for something on his passenger’s seat, he began to drift off the roadway.

After the collision, Dare’s rig continued eastbound until it crashed into the concrete median wall, police said.

Meanwhile, the trailers of both rigs split open, spilling Samardzio’s load of cocoa powder and Dare’s of lithium batteries across all lanes, police said.

And as Burns Harbor Deputy Fire Chief Rob Wesley told the Chesterton Tribune, cocoa powder and lithium batteries--the latter of which, he said, simply “disintegrated”--do not mix. Instead, the lithium batteries ignited the cocoa powder in “several flare-ups” throughout the debris field, which required approximately 1,000 gallons of water to douse, Wesley said. The Porter Fire Department assisted at the scene with an engine.

At mid-morning all eastbound traffic was still being diverted off I-94 at the Burns Harbor/Porter exits, leaving U.S. Highway 20 something of a “disaster,” Wesley noted, with “U.S. 20 backed up from Ind. 149 all the way to Salt Creek.”

The ISP was advising motorists to seek alternate routes--although westbound I-94 remained open--as an “extended cleanup” of the scene was expected.

Neither trucker was injured in the crash, the ISP added, and there was no hazardous material involved in the accident.

The BHFD responded to the crash at 3:42 a.m. and cleared the scene at 6:13 a.m.


Posted 6/14/2019




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