A portion of a Pennsylvania highway remained closed Tuesday as cleanup continued following a deadly pileup during a Monday snow squall.
The northbound lanes of Interstate 81 in Schuylkill County remained closed as authorities removed multiple Tractor Trailers and debris, said Ronald Young, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. The southbound lanes of the highway reopened Monday afternoon, Young said.
Pennsylvania State Police advised drivers to avoid the area as the investigation continued and estimated in a statement on Twitter that the road would likely reopen Wednesday morning. Pennsylvania State Police Troop L Public Information Officer David Beohm tweeted Tuesday evening that construction needed to be completed before reopening.
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More than 50 vehicles were involved in the fiery Crash that killed at least three people and injured dozens more. The wrecks occurred near Minersville, about 100 miles northwest of Philadelphia, John Blickley of the county’s emergency management office, told USA TODAY.
“This is probably the most significant crash we’ve had on the interstate in years,” Blickley said Tuesday.
How many people were injured?
Snowy conditions and fires initially made it difficult for emergency services to access the scene.
Pennsylvania State Police said 24 injured people were transported to four different hospitals. Police said the “walking wounded” and others involved in the crash were taken by bus to a Wegman’s distribution center in an industrial park near the scene.
Schuylkill County coroner Dr. David J. Moylan confirmed three people were killed, and warned Monday afternoon that the death toll “could run higher” because burning vehicles were hindering the search.
Beohm said some vehicles were burned to the frame.
What caused the crash?
It’s unclear how the crash unfolded, but police said the highway was already covered in snow when a snow squall came through. The National Weather Service had warned of “numerous brief heavy snow squalls with very poor visibility.”
“There’s one car that crashes, starts the blockage,” Beohm told USA TODAY. “Next thing you know, they’re just crashing into everything because the roadway’s closed and it’s blocked. There’s no place to go. So you just crash into each other.”
Videos shared on social media showed how quickly conditions on the road changed, with tractor trailers losing control and slamming into each other and a person jumping out of the way as an SUV strikes a passenger car, sending it spinning. Black smoke and flames can be seen rising from a large truck.
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Blickley said three tractor trailers caught fire and at least two other small fires were reported.
The first state police vehicle to arrive was involved in the crash, and a trooper suffered minor injuries Beohm said. The fires were out by 6 p.m. Monday, Beohm said.
Beohm, who was at the scene Tuesday, said tractor trailers were still scattered across the highway.
“The whole roadway is black from the fire,” he said.
Beohm estimated between 50 and 60 vehicles were involved in the crash, but said it could take a week or two to determine the true number involved.
Snow squalls have triggered other deadly pileups. A squall reduced visibility to nearly zero and caused a pileup involving 50 vehicles that shut down a nearby stretch of I-81 in late February, WNEP-TV reported.
Contributing: The Associated Press
Contact Breaking News Reporter N’dea Yancey-Bragg at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @NdeaYanceyBragg