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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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Lorie February 14 2014 at 3:24 PM

I drove the turnpike this morning from Ft. Washington to Willow Grove and was shocked at the conditions. It was a sheet of ice. The only partially clear lane was the far right hand lane. I stayed there and drove behind a few utility vehicles at 25mph. There were people flying by me and I was very concerned! This could have been prevented had the roads been treated properly!

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1 reply
Weebonilass Lorie February 14 2014 at 3:29 PM

Could have been prevented if people had stayed home or slowed down.... 65-70 on ice treated roads? An accident just waiting to happen.

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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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LENPAVEL February 14 2014 at 3:14 PM

motto do not live in the fast lane

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adjrk31697 February 14 2014 at 5:35 PM

As a person the lives in PA I can attest some of the worst drivers are in PA, especially in the winter. they have no regard for their safety or others and are full of themselves when it comes to there driving abilities in winter weather.

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1 reply
englith78 adjrk31697 February 14 2014 at 5:48 PM

I agree 100%! I have been down the PA turnpike many times and see drivers tailgating at 90MPH. Typical, uneducated Americans in that area of PA, especially in the Lehigh Valley. The pike has only TWO LANES(narrow), Pennsylvanians! Add some intense anger and a hurry to be nowhere and this is the usual outcome.

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Ed February 14 2014 at 5:37 PM

Trucks on rails? Why it is my experience (32 years over the road Trucker and another 10 years in operations and safety) that 90% or more of these accidents are caused by the drivers of a 4 wheeler. The drivers that take the same route every day and are used to being somewhere in a certain time frame and insist on doing that no matter the road conditions. As far as blaming this or laughing at northern or southern drivers, realize this area for all intents and purposes is much like the south, they can not handle these conditions.

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1 reply
Blessed One X 20 Ed February 14 2014 at 6:19 PM

As a trucker's wife , I THANK you for your very well thought out and absolutely CORRECT post! I've been with my husband SOO many times where the four wheelers (cars) fly off a ramp and cut him off as if one can stop a 20 ton truck on a dime! Rails? ALL is delivered in this country by truck, yet drivers are not respected because of decades old sterotypes. Such foolishness. You SHOULD respect a 20 ton vehile vs. your 2 tonner on ANY road! So many feel they need to be nasty, and don't stop to think before they speak that people DO exactly what you said as far as taking the same routes and are in hurry to get there regardless of conditions. Driver should NEVER laugh at each other - one can have a wreck, even a pile up, in the BEST driving conditions. ALL should drive using speeds FOR the conditions, and be kinder to each other. Take good care and may the Lord always be with you and have your back door!

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madkono February 14 2014 at 5:38 PM

what are the odds, that that many dumb drivers, would wind up, in the same place???

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padiwagn February 14 2014 at 3:12 PM

That is insane. The PA turnpike is one of the most expensive toll roads in America and that and only that is the reason that turnpike was not closed due to ice on the roads. Now the Insurance companies will be forced to pay for damages that the turnpike commission caused by their greed for tolls. I've driven that turnpike in a motor home and after only one exit, I got off but it cost me 18 dollars becuse of the dual wheels and the tow vehicle. One exit mind you. The road should have been closed before any of this happened. Way to go Pennsylvania greed.

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3 replies
drizz February 14 2014 at 3:11 PM

It's winter and a bad one so everyone needs to slow down I don't think you can blame anyone person that's just not fair. people drive way to fast that's how this happens. IT'S WINTER!!!!!!!!!

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1 reply
drizz drizz February 14 2014 at 3:22 PM


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Greta February 14 2014 at 5:41 PM

We as drivers have to take responsibility and stop trying to blame others. With weather like we've been having on ice there no stopping on a dime. My Blessing goes out to every driver, EMT and all that was there to help.

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