INDIANA (NBC) - Workers continued Friday morning picking through the wreckage of a massive pileup on a busy northern Indiana interstate that killed three people and injured 20 more.
More than 40 vehicles — many of them tractor-trailers — were involved in the chain-reaction wreck Thursday afternoon on Interstate 94, the main artery connecting Detroit and Chicago in Indiana.
At least one person was trapped in a vehicle for hours before authorities could come to the rescue, Indiana State Police said.
LaPorte County Coroner John Sullivan said the victims are a 66-year-old Chicago-area man, who had a dog with him that also died, and a couple from Grand Rapids, Mich. The names were withheld until families are notified.
State police scheduled a news conference later Friday morning during which officials expected to release identities of the victims.
Twenty other people were hurt and taken to local hospitals, state police said. At least three were in critical condition.
Snow and whiteout conditions were contributing factors to the accident, state police said. A band of heavy lake-effect snow was reported Thursday afternoon when the pileup began, dropping 1 to 2 inches of snow per hour and reducing visibility to a quarter-mile or less, National Weather Service meteorologist Evan Bentley said.
NBCChicago footage taken from a helicopter showed snowy conditions.
Dixie Juchcinski, speaking in stand-still traffic some four miles from the crash, told the station the accident occurred in white-out conditions.
"When we first came to a stop, it was a complete whiteout," Juchcinski said. "It was kind of a surprise to us because we could only see one or two cars in front of us."
Scott Collins, 17, of Chesterton, Ind., was riding in a car with three other teens and saw the crash happen just behind them.
"One of the semis started sliding and I think it jackknifed in the middle of the road" and collided with another semi, he told the Associated Press. "After that happened, multiple semis locked up. ... We were pretty nervous."
By Jeff Black, Staff Writer, NBC News. The Associated Press contributed to this report.