Pennsylvania Turnpike Reopens After Massive Morning Pileups

Pennsylvania Turnpike Reopens After Massive Morning Pileups

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BENSALEM, Pa. -

It was an all-day mess on the Pennsylvania Turnpike with the road shut down for miles after two major pileups and several other wrecks in between.

The crashes left dozens of drivers stranded in the cold. Up to 50 cars were involved in those pileups.

Here's what we know:

  • The crashes on Interstate 276 were first reported just after 8 a.m. right in the middle of the morning rush, closing the turnpike between Willow Grove and the Philadelphia Interchanges in Bensalem;
  • A total of 27 people were taken to hospitals, at least four of them with serious injuries;
  • Drivers say the roadway was icy and incredibly slick.

From the air, the long scene looked like an auto junkyard with dozens and dozens of cars and trucks scattered every which way.

Drivers caught in the middle of the wreckage told us traffic had been moving smoothly at 50 to 55 mph until suddenly, "All we saw was brake lights. Everybody locked up their wheels, and next thing you know the sun glare, the spray from the road, everything hit us all at once," said Bill Warrin, of Broomall, Pa.

"It was like a perfect storm, and then boom," he added.

At the front of dozens of separate wrecks were two 18-wheelers, a box truck and several passenger cars.

This stretch of the turnpike is three tight lanes, a wall of snow on one side, a concrete median Jersey barrier on the other.

When cars ahead began to crash, there was no way to avoid impact.

From the ground it was clear there was plenty of hard, packed ice on the road surface, a reminder of our massive snowstorm that lasted Wednesday night into Friday morning.

But drivers told us conditions were deceiving.

"It was much icier once you got out of the car than you expected it to be," said Frank Atkinson, of Furlong, Pa. "It seemed like it was slushy maybe, but it didn't seem like it was icy."

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission had lifted its storm-related speed limit and ban on some commercial vehicles just two hours before the crash.

But a spokesman said that decision does not let drivers off the hook.

"It boils down to responsibility of motorists," turnpike spokesman Carl DeFebo said. "That's our job when we're driving on the roads to monitor the conditions and to be sure that we are adjusting our speeds that are appropriate to whatever the driving conditions are."

By early afternoon, a parade of flat-bed tow trucks was removing vehicles caught in the mess.

The extent of the damage was a reminder that the injury toll could have been much higher, FOX 29's Bruce Gordon reported.

In the second video clip above, FOX 29's Thalia Perez reports that all but one of the injured persons taken to Abington Memorial Hospital had been treated and released by Friday night. You'll also hear from some of the motorists who were injured.

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