I-94 Crash Survivor Describes Being Trapped Three Hours

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Jeffrey Rennell, was driving home to Michigan from a business meeting in Chicago when his SUV suddenly started bouncing off other vehicles like a ping pong ball. Firefighters found it on top of another vehicle and trapped by semis. (Published Friday, Jan 24, 2014)

    An incredible story of survival has emerged from the I-94 tragedy on Thursday.

    Jeffrey Rennell was driving home to Michigan from a business meeting in Chicago when his SUV suddenly started bouncing off other vehicles like a ping pong ball. Firefighters found it on top of another vehicle and trapped by semis.

    Rennell was trapped for more than three hours in the twisted remains of his Ford Explorer. He says he couldn't move his legs, but one piece of equipment from a semi-truck may have helped hypothermia from setting in.

    "The radiator kept me, strangely enough, warm for quite awhile from the truck, 'cause it was right there," Rennell said. "There was 15 guys trying to get me out of that car for three hours, and they said, 'We're not leaving tonight until we get you out of this car. We're going to get you out of this car.'"

    911 Calls Released From I-94 Crash

    [CHI] 911 Calls Released From I-94 Crash
    A semi-truck driver calls 911, moments after a deadly crash involving dozens of vehicles on I-94 near Michigan City, Ind. (Published Friday, Jan 24, 2014)

    Coolspring Township Fire Chief Mick Pawlik's volunteer crew was among the first on the scene. Pawlik said Rennell's extrication was the worst of the five or six that crews did Thursday night.

    He kept talking to Rennell throughout the process, even making the Michigan man laugh when he told him: "Jeff, it's after 5 o'clock, and when we get you out I'm going to take you out for a beer."

    "It was a miracle out there," Pawlik said. "I never want to see it again."

    Instead, Rennell was airlifted to a Chicago hospital, where he was treated for a broken leg and released.

    He was headed back to Michigan on Friday to be reunited with his wife and two children, ages 5 and 3.

    "I'm going to be the same person going in to this accident that I am coming out. A lot of people, it takes something like this to wake them up, but I've always said you've got to focus on the important things, instead of things that seem important at the time. They're really not that important," Rennell said.