Reporting Heather Brown
MENOMONIE, Wis. (WCCO/AP) – The Wisconsin State Patrol says a body believed to be the driver of a semi has been recovered after the semi drove into a river in western Wisconsin.
On Tuesday morning at 3:45 a.m., the semi was traveling west on the snow-covered Interstate 94 when it slipped off the road, went down an embankment and plunged into the Red Cedar River near Menomonie.
For the bulk of the morning, I-94 eastbound near exit 41 was closed.
Crews had to attach a cable to the semi and pull it up to the median of the highway. It took almost 5 hours to remove the semi from the river. After that, eastbound Interstate 94 was reopened.
Authorities say the search for a passenger – a team driver – is based on information from the trucking company that two people were in the semi. The truck is based in Lansing, Mich.
Later, on Tuesday afternoon, emergency crews had to call off a search for the second individual because of too much ice and debris. They are expected to continue again Wednesday.
According to Lt. Jeff Lorentz of the Wisconsin State Patrol, it is unclear why the accident occurred.
“We don’t know why it occurred, if it was slippery roads, if the driver was tired, if there was evasive action taken because we have no witnesses to the event,” said Lorentz.
Lorentz also said the State Patrol has found no evidence that the driver tried to turn or even brake. The tires showed a straight line from the highway, to the median and to the embankment down below.
“During the summer months when we see straight line traffic, it’s often fatigue. Could this have been fatigue? Sure. Snow can do that, but unfortunately we may never know because we have no survivors from this vehicle,” said Lorentz.
The trucking company is from Michigan. The State Patrol would not release names of driver or passenger until passenger has been recovered. The State Patrol did say that they are not from the area.
The storm caused dozens of schools to cancel classes, including the districts of La Crosse, Black River Falls, Tomah and Prairie du Chien. The University of Wisconsin-Platteville and Viterbo University in La Crosse also called off classes Tuesday as travel conditions deteriorated.
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