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Tractor items that stopped on the freeway could have amassed 29 automobiles up to now week on Interstate 94 in Monticello – Minneapolis Star Tribune

The state patrol continued to search Monday for the driver of an articulated truck who may have stopped in the westbound lanes of Interstate 94 near Monticello last week to clear snow from its windshield just before a fiery pile of 29 vehicles.

No one was killed, but nine people were injured in the chain reaction accident that occurred at 9:10 a.m. on Thursday at the exit of County Roads 18 and 39 when a fast, intense blizzard made driving treacherous.

Investigators are still piecing together what led to the mishap that closed the highway for nearly 10 hours. But "it appears that the (truck) non-emergency stop played a role in starting the chain of events in the crash," the State Patrol said.

Ryan Peter from Monticello was right behind the truck with a white cab and trailer when it pulled up in the right lane. He said he assumed there had been a crash since the streets turned to glazed ice. As he and a minivan slowed, they began to slide at a point where the road curved and went downhill.

"I was nervous and scared," he said, noticing that other traffic was coming behind him. “My cousin was killed for the same. Half behind them. "

Peter was able to maneuver into the left lane and drive past the motionless trailer truck and said he was horrified at what he saw. The driver had his cabin door open and leaned forward to clear snow from the windshield.

"He probably couldn't see," said Peter. "It was crazy. He could have pulled another 20 to 30 feet (right)."

Peter used his cell phone to record a video as he resumed seconds before the carnage began. He said he didn't know about the crash until he got home a few minutes later and heard the sirens. By then the tractor-trailer had left the scene.

After the crash, which involved at least 15 tractor units and dozens of mutilated vehicles, hours of heavy black smoke rose into the air, some of which was pushed against a concrete mean. A truck with tractor tires went up in flames and the fire spread to a number of vehicles nearby, the patrol said.

An excavator was installed to remove burned vehicles, tires and other debris.

Several drivers who were involved in or may have seen the accident left the scene before first responders arrived, Shank said. The truck had only a few identifiers and no name on the side. Shank said he hoped someone saw something that will help investigators find the truck and driver in question.

"If you witnessed the crash or have any information about the semi or its driver, please contact the patrol," Shank said.

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