3 Dead, 73 Injured In Mass I-78 Pile-upby Jana Ritter - Published: 2/15/2016
So far it’s been a bad winter for interstate pile-ups and on Saturday Pennsylvania had one of its worst ever. The deadly mass crash occurred on I-78 along Bethel Township and left 3 people dead, 73 injured and a wreckage pile of more than 60 mangled vehicles including 12 commercial trucks and dozens of crushed cars.
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The crash occurred shortly before 9:30 a.m. on Saturday morning and is said to be caused by what drivers reported as whiteout conditions, with very low visibility and a lot of drifting snow. "People were saying they couldn't see past the front bumpers of their cars," said State Trooper, Justine Summa. While the investigation is still underway, senior accident reconstructionist Greg Sullenberger, said it started with a sudden whiteout and "that once that snow squall hit, cars and trucks crashed into each other, drivers blinded by the white, leaving the highway and median clogged with a mass of twisted metal. It's a 60-vehicle puzzle and we’ll have to solve it one piece at a time.”
The initial pile-up caused traffic to back-up and secondary chain reaction crashes for nearly a quarter mile down the interstate. Frederick Weiss of New Jersey was near the end of the chain and said that he pulled onto the center median as soon as he saw the vehicles ahead slowing and stopping. He then said that cars behind him also began pulling over and then he suddenly heard someone shouting for everyone to get out of their cars. Moments later, Weiss said their vehicles were getting hit from behind.
Most tragic, is that 3 people lost their lives as a result of the incident and were pronounced dead at the scene of the crash. On Sunday, authorities released the names of the victims as Kenneth J. Lesko, 50, of Bethpage, NY; Francisca V. Pear, 54, of Bridgewater, NJ; and Alfred Dean Kinnick, 57, of Limestone, TN. Additionally, 73 people were taken by medical helicopters and ambulances to 11 area hospitals. Emergency crews helped the uninjured motorists out of the wreckage and took them to a nearby Red Cross shelter set-up at a fire station.
Crews worked tirelessly overnight in cold temperatures and managed to untangle and remove all of the wreckage from the road. The I-78 was fully re-opened by 7a.m. Sunday morning.