POTTSVILLE, Pa. — A Pennsylvania county coroner said Monday at least three people died in a collision involving more than 50 vehicles that closed a portion of Interstate 81 and sent more than a dozen people to area hospitals.
Dr. David J. Moylan, the Schuylkill County coroner, said the search of the scene hasn’t been completed because of the burning vehicles, but “I suspect it could run higher.”
The crash in northeast Pennsylvania happened around 10:30 a.m. and John Blickley, the deputy emergency management coordinator for the agency, said officials believe a snow squall clouded visibility and likely contributed to the accident. About 40 vehicles including multiple tractor trailers were involved in the initial crash, he said.
Blickley said three tractor trailers carrying unknown cargo were on fire when emergency personnel responded. Smaller fires broke out in other vehicles as well, but all had been largely brought under control, he said.
Pennsylvania State Police Trooper David Beohm estimated a total of 50 to 60 vehicles were involved in the crash, including some tractor trailers and several smaller vehicles.
“We can’t do anything while there’s still an active fire going, and fire (officials) say it will probably be another one to two hours until they get it extinguished,” Beohm said.
Many fire units were at the scene, including a number or tankers coming to replenish water because there was no water source from hydrants on scene.
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 reunification center had been set up at the Goodwill Fire Company in Minersville.
Footage uploaded to social media on Monday showed a tractor-trailer smash into a large dump truck, turning it nearly 180 degrees. Another large truck spewed black smoke and orange flames into the air and an SUV struck a passenger car sending the sedan spinning, narrowly missing its driver who stood on the shoulder of the highway shrouded in snow and fog.
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