Officials Promise Full Review of Pa. Turnpike Pileup

Twenty-seven hurt in crash that left busy highway closed through the late afternoon.

A week after a massive pileup, estimated to involve as many as 100 vehicles, caused a traffic nightmare along the icy Pennsylvania Turnpike, officials promised Friday to get answers while state police started pointing some blame.

“This was an unfortunate set of circumstances that affected the lives of dozens of families, and we take very seriously our responsibility to protect the safety of our customers,” Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission Chief Executive Officer Mark Compton said. “Over the last week, I’ve reflected that it just as easily could have been my family. Fortunately, many of the injuries were minor; and it’s a blessing that there were no life-threatening injuries given the circumstances.”

Compton said the commission has begun a "thorough" review of the response to the Valentine's Day crashes in the eastbound lanes of the roadway that left hundreds of people stranded along the stretch of road between the Willow Grove and Bensalem/U.S. 1 exits in the Feasterville-Trevose area of Bucks and Montgomery Counties.

About 30 people were hurt in the wrecks.

It took emergency crews more than an hour to reach some crashes and the road remained closed for about seven hours. At times, the westbound side was closed too so that rescue crews could use the inner lanes to get the injured out and on their way to local hospitals including Temple and Abington Memorial.

"Angels were there," said Marge Brady, whose car was hit four times by other vehicles. Brady said she "will have nightmares for a long time. Brady, who is from Bensalem, hurt her back and neck in the accident and was rushed to Abington. "It's crazy this could happen."

Pennsylvania State police say their investigation into the series of accidents is pointing to multiple causes.

Capt. Greg Bacher said in a release Friday that officers plan to issue at least 10 citations for traveling too fast for conditions.  

Bacher says other factors include slick pavement and poor visibility from the sun's glare and tire spray.

The turnpike review is being performed by a third-party and could take a few weeks to complete. Call-center dispatchers, motorists, emergency responders, safety officials and turnpike maintenance workers will all be interviewed during the review.

“We absolutely want to understand if there was something we could have done that may have prevented or somehow mitigated the crashes,” Compton said. “Plus, we need to consider if there’s something different we could be doing to reduce or better respond to incidences like this in the future.”

Lisa Terreri and her husband were stuck in the middle of the mess."We just started seeing a lot of minor accidents, a lot of cars trying to brake but they couldn't brake in time, Terreri said. "We could see that the road had a lot of frozen ice on it." Terreri and her husband were able to stop, and wound up stuck between two of the crash scenes.

A legislative hearing on the matter also is being planned.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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