This post was updated at 12:15 p.m. ET.
A chain reaction of crashes involving dozens of cars and tractor-trailers has left more than 20 people hurt, five of them seriously, and forced the closure of the eastbound lane on the Pennsylvania Turnpike near the town of Bensalem, local news reports.
NBC Philadelphia says:
“Multiple accidents left dozens of vehicles wrecked, nearly two dozen motorists injured and hundreds of people stranded along a 5-mile stretch of toll road between the Willow Grove and Bensalem/U.S. 1 exits in the Feasterville-Trevose area of Bucks and Montgomery Counties.”
“My heart was just like…oh my God. There’s no words to express it,” NBC quoted Maria Schoeler, who was stuck directly behind a multi-vehicle wreck, as saying. “It’s pretty crazy. It’s something you don’t expect with this many vehicles. It’s pretty treacherous.”
NBC says a second pileup farther east involved about 20 vehicles, including a FedEx truck, cars and SUVs.
It says 21 people were hurt and that 16 of them were sent to a local hospital. It said five of them were trauma cases, but that there injuries were not thought to be life-threatening.
The number of vehicles involved has been reported variously as anywhere from about 30 to 100.
While the cause was not immediately clear, it seems likely that the slick conditions had something to do with either the initial accident and/or the subsequent crashes.
NPR member station WHYY in Philadelphia reports:
“The shutdown area encompasses about eight miles and helicopter views of the area show several accidents, including a jack-knifed tractor trailer, and other spin out accidents among the wreckage. Hundreds of cars are stuck in the backup and re-opening the highway is expcted to take hours.”
Bill Capone, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, tells CNN that because of the number of vehicles involved and that many will need to be towed away, “we’re looking at long-term closure” of the eastbound lane. He estimated that it would be “at least several more hours” before traffic could resume as normal.
CBSPhilly says one of its traffic reporters calls it the worst such accident he has seen in 20 years on the job.
“It looked like multiple cars couldn’t stop,” said SkyForce10’s Jeremy Haas.
A local Fox News affiliate quotes police as saying at least four fire companies responded to the accident.
The broadcaster says the first crash, believed to have involved a tractor-trailer, occurred around 7:40 a.m. and “then chain reaction after chain reaction occurred afterwards in the same area.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer says “rescue crews were facing a difficult task in responding due to the numbers of crashes and the crush of traffic stuck behind the scene.”