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Witnesses believe weather key in deadly I-75 pileup

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DETROIT (WJBK) -

The crash scene was huge stretching a mile and a half from Springwells all the way to the Rouge River Bridge along southbound I-75.  It took a little more than six hours to remove all the wreckage.

Drivers say it all happened fast and there was little time to react, and even people that did have time to hit the brakes did not escape damage and injuries.

A banged up, white Honda Civic was the Ropers' refuge as cars, trucks, SUVs and semis went out of control all around them.  The Port Sanilac family braced themselves as they were hit by several different vehicles.

"What's the first thing you saw that told you something was wrong?" I asked Paul Roper.

"A car hit me in the rear.  I was braking.  I was going slow, and I didn't hit the car in front of me.  I braked in plenty of time, but obviously the cars behind me couldn't stop," he said.

Paul kept his cool behind-the-wheel with his wife and a third passenger in the car.  All were wearing seatbelts and said airbags also protected them.

"He kept control and we were all fine," said Keitha Roper.

But many of the other drivers on the busy freeway were not so lucky.  From our vantage point along I-75 near Springwells, we could see injured people being taken away by EMS and parents and children being ushered out of damaged vehicles to keep warm while firefighters and state troopers searched for victims.

"We basically had to go to every vehicle and talk to the people involved... to make sure that they weren't injured or make sure that if they were injured that they had access to medical care," said Michigan State Police Lieutenant Michael Shaw.

Once all the victims were transported, crews started removing the damaged vehicles.

Witnesses, including the Ropers, believe the weather played a key role in the deadly chain reaction.

"It came on suddenly.  In other words, there was a cloud burst that just came down on us very suddenly," Paul said.  "We're damn lucky that we didn't get hurt."

The family told me they were headed to Atlanta to meet a new great grandchild.  They said they plan to rent a car and continue on their trip.

If you have a car that was involved in the wreck and you need to locate it, check with Michigan State Police.

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