Created: 07/03/2014 10:47 PM KAALtv.com
By: John Doetkott
A Mankato woman is lucky to be alive after her small car was sandwiched between two semis in a fiery crash on I-35 near Owatonna.
The crash happened shortly before 4 p.m. Thursday afternoon, just south of Owatonna in the northbound lane of I-35.
The State Patrol said a semi and a car were stopped because of traffic when a second semi collided with the car, pushing it into the back of the first semi.
A woman who lives right near the crash site said the vehicles burst into flame almost instantly, sending thick black smoke high into the air.
Dozens of people from the surrounding area drove by to get a glimpse of the crash, and many said they'd never seen anything like it.
"We heard a lot of sirens going down the highway, and then I heard them shut off right when they hit the bridge,” said Vernon Johnson of Owatonna. “I saw a fire truck pull up and I looked down the road farther and I just saw this semi with black smoke, I couldn't even see the other car and semi behind it."
Traffic was backed up for miles and miles on I-35 northbound, and the southbound lanes were reduced to a slow crawl.
The State Patrol eventually set up a detour, but with the sheer volume of cars trying to make their way north, even that was slow going.
"Everything was backed up into town, and behind me coming off [Highway] 14 was all backed up,” said Dale Priebe of Rochester. “[They] finally let us through, and we drove down the road about a mile and we could still see it was just way back."
As crews worked to remove the wreckage, traffic slowly began to move again.
But with the trailers burnt down to their frames, and the car reduced to a heap of charred and twisted metal, everyone who saw it happen was just thankful everyone made it out okay.
"That's amazing, God bless them,” Johnson said. “I'm glad nobody got hurt in that."
“They better go to church on Sunday,” Priebe said jokingly. “They’re very lucky, very fortunate.”