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Trucks, dozens of cars crash on Pa. turnpike



PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- At least two pileups involving tractor-trailers and scores of cars blocked one side of an ice-coated Pennsylvania Turnpike outside Philadelphia on Friday, injuring at least 30 people and tying up traffic for miles.

The eastbound crashes were reported just after 8 a.m., in the middle of rush hour and about five hours after a storm that dropped a foot of snow in the area finally moved out.

Massive 100-Car Pileup Shuts Down Penn. Turnpike

Speed restrictions put in place during the storm had been lifted at 6 a.m., but rush-hour motorists said the roadway was very slick, calling into question whether it had been adequately treated.

The accidents created an hours-long traffic jam between the Bensalem and Willow Grove exits of the state's primary east-west highway, and motorists turned off their engines to conserve gas.

"It's a pretty calm atmosphere right now," said Chuck Wacker, 53, Plymouth Meeting, who counted about 30 smashed-up vehicles around him. "People are sharing food and water."

He said cars were spun around, gas tanks were cracked open and glass and plastic littered the road.

Ambulances took 30 people from the scene, but none of the injuries are believed to be major, turnpike spokesman Bill Capone said. Abington Memorial Hospital and St. Mary Medical Center received many of the patients, but spokeswomen at the two facilities said none of the injuries was life-threatening.

Officials said it would take time to clear damaged vehicles, including tractor trailers, especially since some could not be driven away. About half of a 5-mile jam had been cleared as of early afternoon, Capone said.

The decision to lift the speed restrictions was based on road conditions at the time, he said.

"Based on reports from the road crews, the roads were such that we could restore it back to normal posted speeds," he said. "If somebody had said there was still a reason to keep it in place, we would've kept it in place."

Whether conditions changed after that decision would be part of the state police investigation, Capone said.

He said he was told the road had been treated but couldn't say when.

Several motorists interviewed by The Associated Press described an icy, slippery highway.

"I expected this road to be clear," said Dan Santillo, 65, of Jeffersonville, who was stuck about a mile back. "A major thoroughfare like this? It actually has pieces of ice that were never removed or salted. It just didn't make sense."

Santillo said he was driving 40 to 45 mph, but other motorists were flying by him at 65 or 70.

"I was thinking, what the hell are people doing? It's icy. They're crazy," he said. "People have this false sense of security. I was shocked. Don't they see the road, see what I'm seeing?"

David Hill, 27, said he wasn't surprised there was an accident.

"I got on the turnpike and it was nothing but ice," he said. "I was very surprised at the condition of it. Normally the turnpike is one of the first roads that's cleared, but today I was driving on solid ice."

Hill, who works for a wealth management company, was about a mile back and had turned his car off to save gas. Given the nearest exit was about 2 1/2 miles away, he anticipated being there for hours.

"There's no possible way," he said. "I'm stuck."

When a motorist two cars ahead of Wacker banged into a guardrail, he applied his brakes, and his Honda Ridgeline fishtailed but came to rest within inches of the motorist in front of him.

"There were bare spots and frozen spots. If you hit the brakes and were on that ice, you either slid into the guardrail or into the guy in front of you or the guy next to you," he said.

Motorists trapped in the traffic jam seemed mostly to be taking their predicament in stride, despite having already been stuck for several hours. Santillo, who had picked up a dozen heart-shaped doughnuts to take to work, passed them out to fellow motorists instead.

Volunteers from The American Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania were headed to the scene to bring food, water and blankets to stranded motorists.

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Walter February 15 2014 at 8:49 AM

Would All State Ins. Co. consider this accident a "forgiveable one"?

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snowball1251 February 15 2014 at 8:32 AM

This accident was caused by human stupidity. The roads are icy and slick.
The speed limit was put back to 65 so of course you have to go 65.
Commen sence would tell you to slow down, stay 5 car lengths behind
the car in front of you. If these cars were not on each others ass, I
bet they would have had more time to stop. Why is everybody in such a hurry
to die. Slow down and enjoy life.

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grandmary13 February 15 2014 at 8:19 AM

When weather conditions are that hazardous why don't they make it a fine to be traveling unless you have a special permit???

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enuffluv4jc February 15 2014 at 8:01 AM

We all have been spoiled with the light winters that we have been having these past few years in Upstate NY and Penna. We have become to dependent on the DOT's to solve our driving problems when indeed we should be donig it ourselves. When bad weather is projected leave eariler. drive a little slower, leave enough space between you and the next driver. There are some tractor trailer driver that we call cowboys because of their agressive driving. They are the ones that give the good drivers a bad name. As for the four wheelers, we too have our group that won't slow down for anything or anybody. Just let them pass you and sooner or later you will be passing them while they are pulled over by the local law enforcement. As I told my students when learning to drive, STOP, THINK and REACT to the situtaions you see as a potential road hazzard. If we would ALL slow down maybe we wouldn't have to bother the Man above to slove a problem that we bring onto ourselves.

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1 reply to enuffluv4jc's comment
Kimberly February 15 2014 at 8:13 AM

I drive a 4 wheel drive....but i slow down in bad weather and will even pull off to let others pass if need be. I hate it when you see other 4 wheel drivers cruising down the road at top speed seemingly thinking that because they have 4 wheel drive they are invincible!! I always laugh when i see them in a ditch further down the road.....People have to NOT be dependant on thier car/trucks ability but be cautious of thier own ability to drive....and even if YOU can do it...Others may be having difficulty and CHARGING ON THEM only makes matters worse! I agree!! if we all just slowed down, wasn't in a big hurry, was courteous to others, and kept in mind the potential dangers around every corner.....we would have so fewer accidents!! EVERYONE is in a hurry and they don't seem to value TIME....how much time did ya save waiting for a tow truck ??? think about it next time...it is not only YOUR life on the line, but maybe someone elses'.

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CARMEN February 15 2014 at 7:52 AM

Pure stupidity ! People can't seem to understand the concept of ICE! Slow it down and keep a safe distance, but this can't be done. I see this all the time, driving in slippery conditions and the idiots fly by as if they had some special tires that hold in icy conditions.

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tonyohtony February 15 2014 at 7:44 AM

Well said

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pamiss45 February 15 2014 at 6:32 AM

The Pennsylvania Driver's Manual tells drivers to slow down in inclement weather. These drivers were speeding and knew about the weather that had occurred earlier. Again they will blame anybody but themselves.
This turnpike has an extremely high volume of traffic almost all the time and I would say that the average person is going at least 75 to 80 MPH.

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tortugatommie February 15 2014 at 6:31 AM

Big trucks need to be restricted from travel on ice and snow covered roads

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3 replies to tortugatommie's comment
raptureus210 February 15 2014 at 6:30 AM

Folks, if you think this pileup is something, wait until you see the results of the Rapture. That is if you're left behind. This type of pileup will be world wide. You don't have to be a part of this future pileup folks. All you have to do is accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior NOW and you will escape all of this. You would be safely in the Arms of God WHEN this happens. Please don't be fooled, this will happen, and it could happen today. Please follow your heart and accept Jesus today and avoid what's coming. Don't put it off because you may not have time. Love you guys!

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hpycmpr155 February 15 2014 at 6:09 AM

Two words: SLOW DOWN!!!!!!!

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2 replies to hpycmpr155's comment
raptureus210 February 15 2014 at 6:31 AM

Two better words....Accept Jesus!!!!!!

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David S. February 15 2014 at 7:33 AM

There was a foot of snow on the road.......I can't imagine what was so important people had to be out in it, except trucks....

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