Flames shot out from the tanker and smoke was visible for miles after the chain reaction crash.
It snarled traffic as a four mile stretch of I-96 between Okemos Road and U.S. 127 was shut down by state police.
Investigators say it all started when an reddish-orange car careened off the eastbound expressway,
"The people slow down (to look). Those behind, don't slow down ... and you have a chain reaction kind of situation," Delhi Township Fire Marshal Pat Brown told News 10.
The biggest part of the chain reaction was a tanker truck. The driver told investigators his truck was empty when it hit a passenger car and both vehicles plowed across the median into the westbound lanes.
Luckily, sheriff's deputies were already on scene investigating the first crash.
"They heard screeching ... Two sheriffs deputies pulled the person out of the vehicle and probably saved his life," Brown said.
It saved the driver's life because the accident scene burst into flames moments later.
Investigators say other cars were involved in the chain reaction with a total of seven passengers going to Ingham Regional Medical Center and Sparrow Hospital, both in Lansing. Only one passenger -- the driver of the passenger car that was hit by the tanker -- was seriously hurt.
That car, along with the tanker, remained on I-96 for hours, keeping both directions of the expressway shut.
Crews worked late into the night to get that tanker off the expressway so that expressway traffic could reopen.
Shortly before 11 p.m., eastbound lanes reopened on I-96.