911 recordings released after I-41 pileup in Winnebago County

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(WBAY) — The Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department said the 131 vehicle pileup on I-41 Sunday is believed to be the largest traffic crash in the state’s history.

More than 750 calls were made to 911 regarding the incident.

30-year-old Andrew Schefelker was killed in the massive pileup.

He was in his first year teaching science to middle and high school students in the Iola-Scandinavia School District.

In addition to one death–71 people were hurt and the sheriff’s department said 66 people were treated and released while 5 were admitted for their injuries.

The Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department said a majority of the vehicles in the pileup are a total loss and aren’t drivable.

On Monday afternoon some of the 911 calls from the pileup were released.

On one recording a female caller said, “I’m on 41.” Dispatcher: “Ma’am, ma’am, ma’am. Caller: “help, help, help.”

On a second call another female said, “You’re going to have to close the whole highway down.” Dispatcher: Are you injured at all ma’am? Caller: “I’m not getting out of my car now because I’m afraid I’m going to get hit.”

At the Winnebago County 911 Center Noah Henke was among those responding.

“Yesterday between 11am and 6pm we took over 700 calls. It was just around 740. A normal eight hour period is around 200, so I mean almost quadruple what we normally take,” said Henke.

Initially, Henke says the priority for dispatchers was to keep everyone safe.

On another recording a dispatcher is heard saying, “Make sure you keep your seat belt on, flip your hazard lights on as well. A female caller replies, “They are, they are, but the entire highway is being blocked right now.”

Henke added, “You know you’re hearing the cars striking each other, vehicles around them and keeping the caller calm, just encouraging them, stay in your vehicle, keep your seat belt on especially in an incident like this, it’s going to be the safest place.”

After the initial pileup the calls continued with many coming from family members of the victims and from those not injured, asking about towing and their possessions.

To better handle all of this, two extra dispatchers were brought in Sunday afternoon on short notice.

Henke said this is the biggest incident he’s been a part of in the two years since he was hired.

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