BURNS HARBOR – A crash involving two semi trucks left eastbound I-94 closed to all traffic for several hours on Friday and left cocoa powder and other food products strewn across the road way, according to Indiana State Police.
Preliminary investigation found that about 3:43 a.m., a 1999 Freightliner pulling a box trailer, owned by J. Brothers Logistics of Burr Ridge, Illinois, and driven by Radmilo Samardzio, 70, of Ballwin, Missouri, had pulled over and parked in the white striped gore area (this separates I-94 from the exit ramp to Burns Harbor).
Samardzio said he parked to get a bottle of water to drink and had put his emergency hazard lights on when he was hit from behind, according to ISP.
A 2016 Freightliner, owned by Expedited Freight of Kenosha, Wisconsin, and driven by Steven Dare, 57 of Hudsonville, Michigan, was eastbound on I-94 in the right lane when Dare reached over to his passenger seat to get something, causing his semi to drift off the roadway and hit the rear of Samardzio's trailer. Dare's semi continued eastbound where it crashed into the concrete median barrier wall, according to ISP.
Both trailers were split open and their contents strewn across all eastbound lanes. Samardzio was hauling food products, including the cocoa powder. Dare was hauling miscellaneous merchandise, and part of his load was approximately 100 pounds of lithium batteries, according to police.
The batteries leaked onto the cocoa powder, which caused it to ignite in small batches. Firefighters were able to put these out with water as there was no hazardous material involved.
Both drivers were wearing their seat belts and were not injured.
All eastbound traffic on I-94 was diverted off at the Burns Harbor/Porter exits for several hours – reopening around noon – for extensive cleanup at the site.