TODAY   |  January 24, 2014

Car pileup leaves several dead in Indiana

A massive, 40-vehicle collision on a Michigan City, Ind., highway has left several dead and at least 20 injured after a whiteout created dangerous driving conditions. One witness said, “It sounded like a train coming off the rails.” NBC’s John Yang reports.

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>>> now to treacherous conditions on the roads this morning. you're looking live now in michigan city , indiana, outside chicago where crews are still working to clean up a massive and deadly pile-up. that accident caused by a sudden snowstorm. nbc's john yang has the latest on that. good morning to you.

>> reporter: good morning, matt. as you can see, workers try to remove right now that last truck, the last of more than 40 trucks and cars involved in this massive chain reaction collision that left at least three dead, 20 injured and at least one of them critically. at the time of the accident, visibility was close to zero.

>> one of the most horrible accidents i have ever seen.

>> reporter: whiteout conditions lead to a massive chain reaction collision outside michigan city , indiana, trapping motorists in their cars beneath the wreckage. the treacherous conditions make it difficult for emergency responders .

>> it's not only for everybody out here, but for the families.

>> late thursday, police release released information about those killed. a husband and wife from grand rapids , michigan, and a 66-year-old chicago man and his pet golden retriever . witnesses say they could hear the crash from two miles away .

>> sounded like a train coming off the rails.

>> reporter: police say 40 vehicles including 15 semis were involved in the pile-up bringing traffic to a stand still . the backup stretched 15 miles.

>> complete whiteout.

>> reporter: dixie was in the middle of the managed mess and spoke by phone with nbc station wmaq in chicago .

>> it's like a parking lot, wall to wall scars and trucks.

>> reporter: one of the injured spoke by phone from his hospital bed.

>> a semi coming towards us, i thought i was going to die.

>> reporter: school buses brought into warming stations and to transport injured to hospitals.

>> it goes on for miles.

>> reporter: motorist mike carpenter was going westbound and sent this cell phone video.

>> there's so many cars that inside, i couldn't see anything. that's a nightmare, i promise you.

>> reporter: later this morning, police have scheduled a news conference. we expect to get the names of the dead and also more details of the investigation of just how this happened. matt?