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Five dead, 60 hospitalized in Pennsylvania Turnpike pileup

AP

A deadly crash involving a passenger bus and multiple other vehicles on the Pennsylvania Turnpike left five dead and dozens injured early Sunday, shutting down a large portion of the highway.

Officials said at least 60 people, with victims ranging from 7 to 52 years old, were hospitalized after the crash that happened at 3:40 a.m. in Westmoreland County, around 30 miles (50 km) east of Pittsburgh. Stephen Limani, Pennsylvania State Police spokesperson, said at a press conference that none of the injuries are considered life-threatening, though two patients remain in critical condition.

Limani said the bus, operated by a New Jersey-based company called Z & D Tours, was traveling from Rockaway, New Jersey, to Cincinnati, Ohio. It was first struck by two tractor-trailers, then another truck and a car. Photos from the scene show a mangled collision of multiple vehicles including an overturned bus, two tractor-trailers, a passenger car and a smashed FedEx truck that left packages sprawled along the highway.

“It was kind of a chain-reaction crash,” Limani said.

FedEx did not provide any other details besides that they are cooperating with authorities. A message seeking comment was left Sunday with the bus company.

Limani would not identify those killed or say which vehicles they were traveling in because families have not yet been notified.

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.

“I haven’t personally witnessed a crash of this magnitude in 20 years,” Pennsylvania Turnpike spokesman Carl DeFebo told WTAE, calling it the worst accident in his decades-long tenure with the turnpike. “It’s horrible.”

The National Transportation Safety Board announced Sunday that it dispatched a team of more than a dozen to investigate.

Officials said it was too early to determine if weather was a main factor in the crash. The National Weather Service forecast for Westmoreland County early Sunday listed light unknown precipitation and an air temperature just below freezing.

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 Tribune-Review. 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.”

The highway remains closed in both directions indefinitely. Local fire and emergency medical crews are on scene, along with a hazardous material company cleaning up fuel and other materials. A towing company is getting ready to begin separating the vehicles and getting them cleared.

“It’s a very extensive crash so a lot of work has to be done to get the roadway reconditioned and ready to handle traffic again,” said Craig Shuey, the turnpike’s chief operating officer.