Hwy 141 reopens at scene of deadly crash, train derailment; victim identified

A witness describes the crashes as “unreal” and “unbelievable”
Marinette County train derailment
Marinette County train derailment
Published: Dec. 15, 2021 at 12:13 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 16, 2021 at 6:15 PM CST
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MARINETTE COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - UPDATE 12/16:

Traffic is flowing once again on the southbound and northbound lanes of Highway 141 have reopened between Pound and Coleman following Wednesday morning’s crash and train derailment.

The Marinette County Sheriff’s Office identified the person killed in the chain-reaction crash as Steven Buss, 58, of Kaukauna. He was the driver of the service van that was struck from behind by a dump truck in the dense fog and pushed under the train crossing Highway 141.

Sheriff Jerry Sauve says at 11 A.M., there was a chain reaction of crashes at the railroad crossing involving two dump trucks, an empty logging truck, a service van (previously described as a box truck and other vehicles). The service van and one of the dump trucks were pushed into the train, which killed Buss.

A second dump truck hit the first one, piling into the train, knocking it off the tracks, and causing complete blockage of both, northbound and southbound lanes of Highway 141.

The drivers of the dump trucks were taken to a hospital in Marinette. The sheriff’s department didn’t have news on their conditions Thursday but said it was not notified of any life-threatening injuries.

The sheriff says a tanker truck loaded with fuel was able to avoid the crashes, coming to a stop close to the railroad tracks. He added there were no hazardous materials on the train and some of the train cars were empty.

“The blue van was right next to me as it was impacted. I had pieces of one of the vehicles windows inside my work truck,” said Scott Young, driver who witnessed the crash.

Truck driver, Scott Young, says the crash happened just a foot away from him. He feels fortunate to be alive.

Young says he’s the last one to talk to Steven Buss.

“I came up to the railroad crossing, had my window down enjoying the nice weather even though it was foggy, guy looks over and he goes ‘drive safe in this weather,’ and then we look behind us and here’s a dump truck just hauling the mail, tried stopping and it didn’t happen,” said Young.

A complicated crash, in terrible conditions, required 25 first responders and about 60 volunteers coming to the aide of the Sheriff’s Office.

“We had every surrounding community that arrived on scene within 20 minutes and every fire department from Oconto County around was backing up Marinette County, it was just a big community effort to succeed in this event,” said Chief Turner Gross, Village of Pound Fire Department.

Pound’s Volunteer Fire Department posted to Facebook, offering a heartfelt thanks to everyone who “dropped everything to help” at the crash site.

In a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Sheriff Sauve repeatedly called this a “very dangerous” crash scene for first responders. He said, “I could smell brakes, I could hear tires” as vehicles on the highway stopped as they came upon the emergency vehicles. Sauve said he feared for the safety of the emergency workers responding to the scene.

Sauve said the crash was “very clearly weather-related.” Visibility was estimated between 50 and 100 feet.

Buss is the 8th traffic fatality in Marinette County this year.

INITIAL REPORT 12/15

The Marinette County Sheriff’s Office says one person is dead after a “major crash” and train derailment in the Town of Pound. Officials said drivers should stay off the roads due to the dense fog.

Coleman schools held students at the end of their day because the sheriff said the roads aren’t safe for buses with the weather and the added traffic from the detour.

Article continues below video

The crash scene is on Highway 141. Jim Rosenberg of Rhinelander saw the accident unfold.

“It was unbelievable, the impacts were so hard. Imagine yourself driving along at say 60 miles per hour and then hitting a train. It was unreal,” Rosenberg said.

Sheriff Jerry Sauve says at 11 A.M., there was a chain reaction of crashes at the railroad crossing involving two dump trucks, an empty logging truck, a box truck and other vehicles. Two of the trucks were pushed into the train, knocking it off the rails and killing the driver of the box truck. The victim has not been identified. The driver of a dump truck and another vehicle were injured and taken to a hospital in Marinette. The sheriff didn’t know their conditions.

“After about a minute or two another vehicle came up on the scene at a significant rate of speed and hit that train that was derailed there, too,” Rosenberg said.

The sheriff says a tanker truck loaded with fuel was able to avoid the crashes, coming to a stop close to the railroad tracks. He added there were no hazardous materials on the train and some of the train cars were empty.

Sauve said the crash was “very clearly weather-related.” Visibility was estimated between 50 and 100 feet.

“It was more confusing than anything because the visibility was so low. It was like driving through a bottle of milk,” Rosenberg said.

Sauve says Highway 64 is “completely closed” in the area. Highway 141 is closed from the on ramp in Coleman, and Highway B to the Highway 64 ramp.

In a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Sheriff Sauve repeatedly called this a “very dangerous” crash scene for first responders. He said, “I could smell brakes, I could hear tires” as vehicles on the highway stopped as they came upon the emergency vehicles. Sauve said he feared for the safety of the emergency workers responding to the scene.

“Please, please slow down,” he urged. “Please, please be careful.”

The railroad, Escanaba & Lake Superior, is sending a derailment crew from Chicago and it’s possible clean-up will stretch into Thursday morning.

The sheriff’s office says Coleman schools are allowing parents to pick up children at schools, but Sauve surmised the school district will need to make some adjustments Thursday morning.

A long-term detour has been established:

US 141 Detour

  • Southbound US 141 traffic will be directed off US 141 in Pound to westbound WIS 64, then take southbound Business US 141 to rejoin southbound US 141.
  • Northbound US 141 traffic will be directed onto Business US 141 in Coleman and take Business 141 northbound to WIS 64 eastbound to rejoin northbound US 141.

Article continues below videos and photos

Crews respond to a major crash in the Town of Pound. Dec. 15, 2021.
Crews respond to a major crash in the Town of Pound. Dec. 15, 2021.(Jim and Karla Rosenberg)
Scene of train derailment in Marinette County
Scene of train derailment in Marinette County(Wisconsin Department of Transportation)
Scene of train derailment in Marinette County
Scene of train derailment in Marinette County(Wisconsin Department of Transportation)
Scene of train derailment in Marinette County
Scene of train derailment in Marinette County(Wisconsin Department of Transportation)

Much of our viewing area is under a DENSE FOG ADVISORY.

“Marinette County Sheriff Jerry Sauve is urging everyone to not drive in Marinette County at this time. We are dealing with heavy fog with visibility under 100 feet across most all our area. we are also dealing with multiple major crashes,” reads a post on the Sheriff’s Office Facebook page. “If you must drive you need to take it slow, real slow. Fog gets more dense without notice and visibility can drop to less than 100 feet quickly. Please put your headlights on, automatic headlight may not turn on in this so manually turn them on so you are more visible to others. If at all possible please stay off the roads until weather conditions improve.”

FIRST ALERT TRAFFIC: https://www.wbay.com/page/first-alert-traffic/

CLOSINGS AND DELAYS: https://www.wbay.com/weather/closings/

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