Snow squall causes 68-car pileup near Hazleton
Brian A Kennedy | February 12, 2008 at 09:07 amby
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A nasty snowstorm on Sunday caused a 68-car pileup on Interstate 81 near the town of Hazleton, Penn. One motorist was killed and several dozen were injured.
Firefighters used ropes to rescue people who had scrambled out of their cars and jumped down an embankment to avoid being hit.
A woman died in the pileup when her car became wedged underneath a tractor-trailer, said Lt. Jason Zoshak of Hazle Twp. Fire and Rescue. About 35 people were injured, and at least 24 people whose cars were not drivable were taken to shelters, he said.
Zoshak, who helped at the scene, said the storm created whiteout conditions along the highway near Hazleton.
"They had a heavy snow squall going through the area, zero visibility, high winds," he said. "There were vehicles everywhere."
Nineteen people were taken to Hazleton General Hospital, where all but three were treated for minor injuries and released, Hazle Twp. Fire Chief Scott Kostician said in a news release. One patient was transferred to a trauma center, another was admitted to the hospital and a third was still being treated in the emergency room late Sunday, he said.
Some of the uninjured motorists were taken to the American Red Cross building in West Hazleton, where "they were just very happy to be in the warm and safe," said John A. Kyte, an emergency services specialist.
He said most of them were from out of the area and either arranged alternate transportation or planned to stay the night at a hotel.
The 2 p.m. crash initially closed both sides of the highway, leaving vehicles scattered across the roadway and in ditches and the median. Dozens of emergency vehicles lined the road.
The northbound side of the interstate was shut down for more than five hours, and motorists were detoured onto side roads, leading to several miles of jammed traffic. All lanes of I-81 were open as of 7:15 p.m.
Emergency management officials initially were told that a tanker truck carrying almost 4,500 gallons of hydrogen peroxide had spilled the acid onto the highway. The cab was demolished but the steel tank was found to be secure, officials said.