AVON, Conn. – A fiery crash involving 20 vehicles, including a commuter bus, killed at least four people Friday and injured at least 14, officials said.
Initial reports said at least five people were killed. Officials revised the number to four. The crash occurred at the intersection of Route 44 and Route 10, said Ed Lescoe, a spokesman for the Capitol Region Emergency Planning Agency (search). That sparked a fire that engulfed several vehicles, including the truck. At least 14 people were sent to area hospitals, several by helicopter with serious injuries.
"When first responders arrived, the dump truck was fully engulfed and three of the vehicles were burned beyond recognition." Rinaldo said. Several people were trapped in their cars, but police were able to free them before the fires spread.
Avon police chaplain Jon Widing said a surgeon commuting to work was one of the first people at the crash site and treated several victims at the scene. The surgeon's name was not available.
"The surgeon was working from one victim to the next," he said. "He was quite composed and knew what he was doing. There was an awful lot to do. There wasn't much time to think."
In Hartford, Gov. M. Jodi Rell expressed sympathy for the victims' families and said the state may consider reducing speed limits and more strictly enforcing speeding and tailgating laws.
"I think of all of us who get up in the morning and get ready for work," she said. "You go through your daily chores and you really don't realize sometimes that this could be the last day of your life. And I think it should give us all a moment of pause."
Lescoe said investigators were looking into reports that the truck lost its brakes coming down the hill. It spilled a load of dirt and debris across the highway as it crashed.
Crews from seven cities and towns responded to the accident, which occurred shortly after 7:30 a.m. and shut down Route 44 during the morning commute. Avon is about 10 miles northwest of Hartford and on a major commuter route.
Krystyna Klepacki, manager of a nearby day spa, said there's been numerous accidents at the intersection.
"We're all very shaken up by this obviously," she said. "It's in our back yard, so to speak."
Greg Lushinski was watching TV in his apartment when he heard the screech of tires, squealing brakes and the collisions.
"It was like a crash and a chain reaction of cars," he said. "I know this mountain is pretty terrible."
The bus was a state-owned transit bus leased to Kelley Transit (search) in Torrington, said company manager Joe Coe. It was carrying eight commuters and a driver from Winsted to Hartford.
The driver, whose name was not released, was taken by helicopter to Hartford Hospital, Coe said. The passengers were not seriously injured, he said.
Rinaldo would not comment on the condition of the dump truck's driver, but a red tarp covered the truck's cab.
State transportation officials expect the road to be closed for at least 12 hours.