UPDATE: Victim identified in L’Anse gas station crash; Semi driver to be arraigned Monday for OWI

Crews battling fire at Holiday gas station in L'Anse
Crews battling fire at Holiday gas station in L'Anse(Will Korn)
Published: Oct. 14, 2022 at 5:09 AM EDT
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L’ANSE, Mich. (WLUC) - A L’Anse man is dead, a gas station employee is injured and a semi-truck driver is in jail for drunken driving after crashing into a gas station Thursday night, causing it to catch fire.

According to the Michigan State Police, 43-year-old Al Dantes Jr. was fueling up when the crash happened at 11:10 p.m. Thursday. Dantes was taken to Baraga County Memorial Hospital where he was later pronounced dead.

Dantes is remembered as a father of six girls, a friend and an accomplished racer. He was set to compete in the Lake Superior Performance Rally on Friday and Saturday. A moment of silence was held at the ceremonial start of the LSPR Friday morning.

The MSP says troopers were called to the Holiday Gas Station for a fatal traffic crash and large-scale structure fire. Upon investigation, troopers learned the crash involved a semi-truck and trailer striking the gas pumps, where Dantes was.

A Holiday Store employee was also taken to the hospital with injuries. Their condition hasn’t been released. Police say a store customer was able to escape from the scene with no injuries.

Cameron Aten says he was in the gas station when the semi crashed.

“As I was checking out, literally as I was handing the cashier the money, we just heard a bunch of crashing and banging, and I look up and see a semi coming directly at us,” said Aten. “It plowed right through the gas pumps and into the building.”

Aten works at nearby Campioni’s Convenience Store. He says the truck went off US-41 and crashed through a powerline, alongside Campioni’s It then traveled alongside the store before crashing into the Holiday Gas Station. Aten and the cashier ran through the front of the store after trying to leave through the back. They went to the Dollar General parking lot across the highway as the fire grew.

“It was a matter of two or three minutes, it went from just the gas pumps on fire to the whole pavilion area that covers the gas pumps,” said Aten. “(It) slowly spread to the semi, all the way to the store, and it was about ten or fifteen minutes and the store was up in flames.”

Al Dantes Jr.
Al Dantes Jr.(Elwood Niemi Jr.)

The driver of the tractor-trailer, a 22-year-old man from Illinois, was taken to the Baraga County Jail for operating while intoxicated causing death.

The driver’s name has not been released. He is expected to be arraigned Monday in Baraga County District Court. A trainee who was a passenger in the semi-truck was not hurt, police say.

Troopers were assisted by Baraga County Sheriff’s Office, Keweenaw Bay Tribal Police, Baraga Village Police, and L’Anse Police. Several local fire departments responded, including L’Anse Fire Department, Baraga Fire Department, Houghton Fire Department, Arvon Fire Department, Aura Fire Department, Pelkie Fire Department, as well as Bay Ambulance Service.

UPDATE 7:23 a.m.: Michigan State Police are still on the scene of the fire; flames have now been put out according to our reporter on the scene.

Original story:

Fire crews are on the scene of a fire at the Holiday gas station in L’Anse.

We have been unable to confirm the cause of the fire and if there are any injuries at this time. According to our reporter on the scene around 1:00 a.m., the roof appeared to have partially collapsed. Local fire departments are using a ladder to extinguish flames. Officials are blocking off the road, and re-routing traffic through town, then back to the highway. UPPCO is also on scene assisting.

TV6 has called the Michigan State Police Calumet post, as well as the Baraga County Sheriff’s Office but has not gotten any further details. This is an ongoing situation, and we will update this story as more information is released.