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Details released on semi-car crash that closed I-94

The semi-car collision that closed Interstate 94 Sunday night sent a Menomonie man to Regions Hospital and left emergency workers with a dangerous mess when a cargo of flammable resins inside the semi-rig broke open and leaked onto the roadway.

Benji Chrisler, 29, of Menomonie was eastbound on the I-94 St.Croix River crossing at 8:55 p.m. when he braked to avoid striking the rear of a car ahead that had also braked.

Chrisler's 1993 Ford Escort was struck from behind by a semi-tractor driven by William Mueller, 28, of Princeton, Minn. The tractor and conventional trailer were owned by Morrell Transport,Elk River, Minn., according to trooper Bill Traynor of the Wisconsin State Patrol.

Mueller immediately called 9-1-1 and advised St. Croix County that Chrisler appeared to be seriously injured. Within minutes, firefighters and EMS personnel from Hudson responded, along with sheriff's deputies and the State Patrol. Minnesota troopers stopped traffic at Hwy. 95 and gave drivers the option of heading north through Stillwater or south to Prescott.

Chrisler was transported by ambulance to Regions. He was listed in good condition just before noon, Monday, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

Once authorities identified Mueller's cargo as a flammable material, the situation escalated with traffic being stopped in both directions. Within minutes, westbound traffic was backed up nearly to Roberts.

Guidelines for handling the hazardous material suggested a "safe zone" of at least 150 feet, Traynor said, thus the need for closure of all lanes.

By 10 p.m., one or two westbound lanes were reopened but all eastbound elanes remained closed until at least 1 a.m., Traynor said.

St. Croix County Highway Dept. crews assisted by deploying sign boards along I-94. Minnesota authorities posted detour advisories on overhead sign boards in St. Paul as well.

One Hudson man said Monday the detour through Stillwater added 90 minutes to his trip home from Minneapolis. Another said northbound traffic on Hwy. 95 was backed up to Bayport.

Crews from Jerry's Towing Inc., worked with Hudson-based Hulcher Emergency Services to clean up the hazardous material.

Mueller's truck was towed away about 7 a.m., Monday.

No one with Hulcher was available to comment on the company's involvement.

The accident remains under investigation.