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UPDATE: At least 4 fatalities in 3 Columbia County interstate crashes, Patrol reports
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UPDATE: At least 4 fatalities in 3 Columbia County interstate crashes, Patrol reports

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At least four people were killed and several more were injured in three crashes early Friday in the northbound lanes of Interstate 90/94/39, two of which police say were the result of inattentive driving as emergency responders worked at the site of the first.

According to a statement from the State Patrol, five people who witnessed the final crash risked their safety to pull two drivers from a burning vehicle along the roadway. It also cited “numerous injuries” as a result of the crash.

Exactly how the crashes happened, though, was not immediately known, and investigators will be combing through witness accounts, vehicle data and video to figure it out. Some witnesses who are hospitalized might not be able to give statements for some time, State Patrol Sgt. Michael Marquardt said Friday.

“It could be a matter of days or weeks before we fully understand what happened,” Marquardt said.

Dash cam video posted online shows semi-trailers smashing into each other, an SUV flipping and rolling off the shoulder of the road and a large ball of flame engulfing the cab of a semi-truck.

The first crash, according to information released by the Patrol, happened along the interstate near Lodi at Highway 60. At about 4 a.m., officers were called to an accident in which one semi-trailer reportedly crashed into the back of another.

As work was being done at the scene, about an hour later, “a straight truck piled into the first crash scene,” according to the Patrol. The second accident seriously injured a Columbia County Highway Department worker. Two troopers also suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries. All three were taken to UW Hospital in Madison for treatment.

A State Patrol vehicle was massively damaged.

According to both agencies, yet another accident resulted in injuries and fatalities around 6:45 a.m. “as northbound traffic was queuing due to the earlier crashes,” per a statement from the Patrol. Near Highway K, a semi-trailer “traveling at highway speeds created a chain-reaction crash involving at least seven vehicles,” including two semis, a dump truck and four passenger vehicles.

An alternate route was established to account for closure of the two northbound lanes at Highway 60. The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office announced the interstate was reopened around 11 a.m. and implored the public to “please be safe and slow down.”

Follow Bridget on Twitter @cookebridget or contact her at 608-745-3513.

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