A section of Interstate 80 in eastern Clinton County is expected to reopen early this afternoon from a fatal 66-vehicle pile-up that occurred on Wednesday afternoon during the snowstorm, according to state police.
Corporal Brent Miller, a state police spokesman, said 55 of the vehicles involved in the crash were commercial vehicles and the others were passengers vehicles. The cause of the crash remains under investigation.
One death occurred in the crash and another individual died due to a medical issue unrelated to the crash, state police said Thursday. A number of people were injured and transported to area hospitals, state police said.
Gov. Tom Wolf and officials from PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency discussed the crash in a news conference Thursday.
Entrances to that section of the roadway were closed and alternative routes were established to move traffic around the crash scene, Miller said. The eastbound lanes were also shut down for cleanup activity.
Emergency officials brought in buses to evacuate people stranded on the highway due to the crash because the roadway was going to be shutdown for an extended period of time and were put up in emergency shelters, PEMA director Randy Padfield said. A significant band of snow was passing through the area that prohibited emergency officials from trying to turn around the passenger vehicles.
“The goal is at any point in time if we can actually open up the roadway to be able to allow the folks to continue on,” Padfield said. “But if we get to that point we know, such as the incident in Clinton County, that a roadway is not going to open for an extended period of time, there may be multiple vehicles that are in that trapped queue that are non-drivable, we want to evacuate those folks off of that system” for health and safety reasons.
PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian said that stretch of the highway had been plowed shortly before the pile-up. Additionally, a 45 mph speed restriction was in place when the crash occurred but there were no vehicle restrictions at that time. Despite all these measures, she said, “unfortunately, this kind of accidents do happen.”
Wolf said, “We will sit down and look at exactly what happened and try to figure out what we might be able to do … .to prevent the worst of these things from happening next time around.”