National Transportation Safety Board investigators have been called to the scene.
GREENSBURG, Pa. (AP) — A deadly crash involving a passenger bus and multiple other vehicles on the Pennsylvania Turnpike left at least five dead and dozens injured early Sunday, shutting down a large portion of the highway.
Officials said at least 60 people, ranging in age from 7 to 52 years old, were hospitalized with unknown injuries after the crash that happened at 3:40 a.m. in Westmoreland County, around 30 miles east of Pittsburgh.
“I’ve been here for 20 years … I haven’t personally witnessed a crash of this magnitude in 20 years; it’s horrible,” said Pa. Turnpike spokesman Carl DeFebo.
Photos from the scene show a mangled collision of multiple vehicles and package strewn along the highway. The vehicles included an overturned bus, and three tractor-trailers, including one FedEx truck and one UPS truck that left packages strewn along the highway.
The bus struck an embankment as it was on a downhill curve, triggering a chain reaction collision, as commercial vehicles traveling behind struck the tour bus. A passenger vehicle was also involved, state police said.
At a news conference in the early afternoon on Sunday, Pennsylvania State Trooper Steve Limani said weather conditions may have contributed to the cause of the crash.
“We were told that, by some of the people who were driving, that the weather did start to change, there was some precipitation that was coming down,” he said. “I’m sure that could’ve played a factor, but we’re so early in our investigation right now, but it’s hard to try and pinpoint anything specific.”
Craig Shuey, the turnpike’s chief operating officer, said roads crews began treating the stretch where the crash occurred at 9 p.m. the previous night.
“So they were cycling through, dropping salt and cinder as necessary and treating that entire section,” he said.
Limani said the bus was traveling from Rockaway, NJ to Cincinnati, Ohio, although he was not sure why the passengers had traveled to New Jersey.
FedEx did not provide any other details besides that they are cooperating with authorities.
There were 25 victims transported to Excela Frick Hospital in Mt. Pleasant, Excela Health spokeswoman Robin Jennings said. Nine of those patients are under the age of 18.
At least one of the 25 victims initially sent to Excela was transported to a nearby trauma center and the rest of the patients’ conditions were not known, Jennings said.
Information about what caused the accident was not immediately available, and the National Transportation Safety Board investigators were called to the scene. The National Weather Service forecast for Westmoreland County early Sunday listed light unknown precipitation and an air temperature just below freezing.
DeFebo said it was “premature” to say if weather was a factor in the crash, adding, “As to whether there’s an issue here (with slick road conditions), we just can’t say at this moment for sure.”
He said a portion of the turnpike will likely be closed for the rest of the day, DeFebo said.
The American Red Cross Greater Pennsylvania Region in Westmoreland County is helping multiple people, including passengers and family members impacted by the crash, which involved six vehicles, according to a news release.
Anyone impacted and in need of assistance is asked to contact the Red Cross at 1-800-RED-CROSS.
The Tribune-Review reported that Angela Maynard, a tractor-trailer driver from Kentucky, said the roads were wet from snow but not especially icy. Maynard was traveling eastbound on the turnpike when she came upon the crash site and called 911.
“It was horrible,” she told the newspaper. She saw lots of smoke but no fire. She and her co-driver found one person trapped in their truck and another lying on the ground.
“I tried to keep him occupied, keep talking, until medical help arrived,” Maynard said. “He was in bad shape. He was floating in and out of consciousness.”
This is a developing story, check back for updates.
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