Winnebago County: 911 lines were 'ringing off the hook' as hundreds of cars crashed on Wisconsin's I-41

  • Source: Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune
  • Published: 02/27/2019 06:56 AM

The emergency radio dispatches from Sunday's 131-car pileup on I-41 start out with a dispatcher sending units to the scene of what was initially thought to be a series of crashes involving 10 or so vehicles on the interstate. But with 911 lines "ringing off the hook," as one dispatcher reported, emergency crews quickly realized they were dealing with a crash involving dozens of vehicles. One person was killed and 71 were injured in the crash. The radio traffic reflects near-blizzard whiteout conditions that were so harsh, law enforcement officers and firefighters on the interstate trying to communicate with dispatchers were drowned out by the wind. As the scope of the crash became apparent, additional fire/rescue teams were called in from throughout the region, with crews being asked to bring "multiple jaws, repeat, multiple jaws" — hydraulic rescue tools used to cut vehicles apart to free trapped victims. The tools are often referred to by one of their trademarked brand names, Jaws of Life. Heavy rescue crews were also called to the scene.


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