ERIE, Pa – About 50 vehicles, including an ambulance, were involved in a massive chain-reaction crash on Interstate 90 under whiteout conditions Thursday, leaving one person dead, officials said.
Police closed I-90 in both directions over an approximately 10-mile section east of Erie to the New York border after the 12:45 p.m. accident. The highway remained closed Thursday night and authorities did not know when it would reopen, state police spokesman Cpl. Mark Zaleski said.
Among the vehicles involved were 22 tractor-trailers, he said.
Several tanker trucks were involved and a hazardous materials crew was dispatched to the scene, but the trucks were not damaged and remained upright, said Maria Finn, a spokeswoman for thePennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.
One person was killed, Zaleski said. Authorities were not releasing the person's information. Investigators are trying to determine whether the person died when he was thrown from a vehicle or pinned between two, Zaleski said.
A number of people sustained minor injuries, Finn said.
Police also closed southbound lanes of I-79 for several hours because of accidents south of Erie.
Doctors from St. Vincent Health Center in Erie were dispatched to help emergency crews treat victims and free them from wrecked cars on I-90, hospital spokeswoman Cyndy Patton said.
"We sent one of our emergency room physicians along with a trauma surgeon from Hamot (Medical Center) up to the scene," Patton said. "It's more to assist in extrication. They're just having trouble because of the pileup getting ambulances in and out of there."
St. Vincent and Hamot said they had a total of seven injured people from the I-90 accident plus two from crashes on Interstate 79. None of the injuries appeared to be life-threatening.
Lucia Conti, a spokeswoman for Hamot Medical Center in Erie, said she expected the hospital would get as many as three more patients.
Ann Bloxdorf, deputy director of public safety for Erie County, said the I-90 accident occurred between the Wesleyville and Harborcreek exits, just east of Erie.
"I know there are evacuation efforts under way for stranded motorists to some warming shelters nearby," she said.
Zaleski said one vehicle in the crash was an ambulance carrying patients.
Snow was falling across western Pennsylvania at the time. Erie was expected to get up to 6 inches by late evening and possibly more overnight, according to the National Weather Service.