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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.

Join the discussion

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Tom February 14 2014 at 3:28 PM

"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."
In your first seven words you had said it all. That is why accidents like this happen. You need to use your own brain and take the conditions as they came. Second I get to work on the turnpike alot and you were NOT doing 45. Again in your first seven words you had expressed what most self centered people driving on the TP think. But let me see if I can figure this one out. You were all speeding with a false sense of security, I see it almost everyday on the TP. On my way to work people were flying past me like I was sitting still. And keep in mind when it is below 32 and wet that makes ice.

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1 reply
ickyickyicky999 Tom February 14 2014 at 3:47 PM


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mcgowbi February 14 2014 at 3:21 PM

Slow down idiots!

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Raptor Jo February 14 2014 at 5:44 PM

I know that in 2003 I had to drive from Ohio to NYC to see my Mom who was deathly ill. It was snowing horribly and I absolutely dreaded the drive, most of which is spent on the Pa Turnpike. All I remember is there were plows and salt EVERY where. It was like every couple of miles another salt truck. I was very impressed (Ohio plows should be so grand) and had no real issue during the travel

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Hello Yyucandu February 14 2014 at 3:19 PM

I moved here from upstate ny four years ago and ill say one good thing regarding nys.. they clean the roads right away sand and salt also.....not only doesn't pa take care of their highways they also don't take care of the secondary roads we just got one pass through in my development so far and by 7am this morning not one plow was on the main road of my area (s. Whitehall township)so im not surprised of the condition of the pike..

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trantiques February 14 2014 at 3:18 PM

PA DOT does a terrible job on the ice and snow in the winter. We live up north off of 84 and there are times they don't plow until 5 hours after a storm ends. Never plow when the storm is hitting. Shame on them !!!

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1 reply
governorphil trantiques February 14 2014 at 3:24 PM

PennDot is awful, but this was the Turnpike Authority which is usually far superior. Hence, the tolls that begin to resemble mortgage payments.

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jadedjuna February 14 2014 at 3:18 PM

Sheesh! I live in Minnesota and people just need to slow down in winter. Just because one part of a road is clear doesn't mean there are no icy patches or bad areas. Leave yourself plenty of time to get where you are going and don't be in such a rush. I would've thought PA would have salted more than they did, they are used to winter. People feel invincible in SUV's but those are always the cars I see upside down in ditches- I can't help but get a chuckle out of seeing them. Every year it's the same, driving too fast for the conditions. Slow down people!!

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padiwagn February 14 2014 at 3:17 PM

One more thought. Don't blame all of this on big rigs. Crazy people driving 4 wheel drive SUV and the like think they can still drive speed limits because they have a 4 wheel vehicle. Problem here, the wheel in their head is not spinning or they wouldn't drive so stupidly. That along with the ice on the road is the problem here. No one is laughing at Atlanta or Phillie, the stupid drivers and the greedy politicians that control the tolls is the problem here.

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1 reply
madkono padiwagn February 14 2014 at 5:21 PM

if people didn't blame big rigs, they'd be saying they're dumb drivers!!!

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John February 14 2014 at 5:49 PM

I drive on the PA turnpike in that area pretty often. Usually they do a good job of keeping it clear, but as I left home this morning all the roads were icy. The speed limit may be 65 there but it is common for people to drive 75 mph or more on the turnpike. From what I saw on the news the outer lanes were clear but the center lane had ice. Combine that with speed and how dumb some people drive and it was inevitable that a huge accident would happen

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1 reply
kimmieizey John February 14 2014 at 6:07 PM

I agree I am in PA also and drive the other end of it. Just because you can go 65 doesnt mean you should LOL

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billrenaud99 February 14 2014 at 3:16 PM

For the life of me I just cannot understand the behavior of drivers flying by me at 70 miles an hour on solid ice and snow on freeways and then tailgating you because your not speeding with them. What are they thinking. Its like its all about them getting to where they want as fast as they can with no regard to the safety hazzard they are causing. Absolute idiots.. Oftem with small older cars with bald tires no less.

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sableesp February 14 2014 at 3:16 PM

I realize some think this weather is natural...it's not.

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