POTTSVILLE, PA ( Associated Press) – Tractor trailers and other vehicles lost control and collided with each other, people jumped from car trucks seconds before collision and at least three people were killed and more than a dozen others injured during a snowstorm on a Pennsylvania Highway Monday.
The crash on Interstate 81 was captured in videos posted on social media, showing drivers and passengers standing along the snowy road and jumping out of the way as a cascade of crashes unfolded.
Dr. David J. Moylan, the Schuylkill County coroner, said three deaths were confirmed by late afternoon and that the number could rise as fires hamper rescuers.
In one video, an out-of-control tractor trailer crashed into a large truck and turned it nearly 180 degrees, another large truck caught fire and spewed black smoke into the air, and a sports utility vehicle hit a passenger car. hit which has now made it spin past a person. standing on the shoulder in snow and fog.
Video mounted on the dashboard of a vehicle showed how quickly the road conditions changed. Stopped vehicles rose like a wall in front of the driver, and a person on the road stretched out their arms and jumped to escape the runaway vehicle. The impact sounded like thunder.
The Schuylkill County Office of Emergency Management said the crash in northeastern Pennsylvania occurred around 10:30 a.m. Monday. John Blickley, the agency’s deputy emergency management coordinator, said officials believe a blizzard clouded vision and likely contributed to the crash.
Estimates of the number of vehicles involved from the emergency management agency and state police ranged between 40 and 60, including multiple tractor trailers. Blickley said emergency personnel from four different counties took about 20 patients to area hospitals for treatment. Three tractor trailers with unknown cargo were on fire when emergency personnel arrived and some smaller vehicles were also on fire, he said.
Pennsylvania State Police Chief David Beohm said Monday afternoon the fires delayed a full investigation.
Firefighters at the scene included a steady stream of water tankers because the crash was “in the middle of nowhere … there is no fire hydrant out here anywhere,” Boehm said.
The highway was covered in snow when the snowstorm came through, he said.
“All it takes is one person to get stuck in something and you have to pull off the road, but when you continue to drive at highway speeds, that’s what happens,” he said.
People whose vehicles were in the crash and the “walking wounded” were taken to the Wegman’s distribution center in an industrial park near the crash, he said, and a reunion center is at the Goodwill Fire Company No. 1 set up in Minersville for people to meet friends or family or arrange accommodation.
The National Weather Service warned against “numerous short-lived heavy snowstorms with very poor visibility”.
“The mood will quickly reduce visibility to less than half a mile and cover the roads with snow,” forecasters said, urging drivers to get off the road if possible or turn on hazard lights “and gradually slow down to a chain to avoid reaction vehicle accidents. ”
Mike Colbert, a forecaster at the National Weather Service in State College, said the weather service began issuing warnings for snowstorms a few years ago, and accumulations of the kind reported are why they started doing so.
“These are very heavy snow showers where if you drive in them, you can go into a blizzard in a matter of seconds from a partly cloudy or sunny sky. That’s why they are so dangerous, “he said.