Officials ID wrong-way driver killed in head-on crash as Illinois man

State Patrol says hazardous materials involved

Interstate 39-90 between Janesville and Beloit was closed in both directions for more than 7 hours because of a deadly crash involving hazardous materials.

Wisconsin State Patrol said a Toyota Camry driver was driving the wrong way in the southbound lanes of I-39-90 when he struck a semi-tractor head-on at about 4:30 a.m. Saturday. The crash site is near Shopiere Road north of Beloit.

The Toyota driver, 27-year-old Jacob Wieibel, of Rockton, Illinois, died at the scene. The semi-tractor caught fire after the collision, but the driver was able to escape the cab on his own, according to the report.

State Patrol said the semi-trailer was carrying methanol and hydrogen peroxide. Firefighters were able to extinguish the cab fire before it reached the trailer, but the heat disrupted the integrity of the trailer’s contents.

State Patrol said there is no danger to anyone at the scene. None of the barrels came open, but they had to be removed. The Rock County Hazardous Materials Response Team assisted with scene assessment and hazard evaluation. Hazchem Environmental Corp. from Addison, Illinois, responded to the scene and secured the hazardous chemicals in the trailer prior to it being removed from the interstate.

The stretch of interstate from mile markers 175 to 185 was closed at until about 12:15 p.m. Saturday, state traffic officials said.

Rock County Sheriff’s Commander Troy Knudson said several factors complicated the response for crews, including the bitter cold Saturday morning.

“As a result of the fire and these cold temperatures out here, any water that they put down on the highway immediately turned to ice,” Knudson said. “It’s certainly a tough situation for all of these responders with the cold temperatures and the scene being what it is, the middle of the interstate, it is a tough situation for everybody.”

Drivers told News 3 delays lasted 30 to 45 minutes as they took recommended detour routes.

“We’re backtracked all over the place, trying to get to Madison,” driver Larry Schlosser said.

Some drivers said they had a difficult time following the detour route; Schlosser and another driver said posted signs were unclear.

“We’re having trouble, because the signs directing us back to the freeway were a bit ambiguous,” driver Greg Veldey said.

“At one point, they had a sign up saying that you needed to exit and detour and then, gosh, I don’t know, maybe 10 or 15 miles later, they had another one of those orange flashing signs, but you couldn’t read it,” Schlosser said. “You didn’t know what the detour was.”

The crash remains under investigation by the Wisconsin State Patrol accident reconstruction team.

“Any fatal accident is a serious tragedy,” Knudson said. “Our hearts go out to the person–and their family–who lost their life as a result of this.”