A massive pileup, estimated to involve as many as 100 vehicles, caused a traffic nightmare along the icy Pennsylvania Turnpike just hours after a speed restriction was lifted Friday morning.
“My heart was just like…oh my God. There’s no words to express it," said Maria Schoeler who was stuck directly behind a multi-vehicle wreck. "It’s pretty crazy. It’s something you don’t expect with this many vehicles. It’s pretty treacherous."
The first accident happened around 8:25 a.m., leaving five tractor-trailers and 10 cars tossed up in a mangled mess about a mile from the Bensalem interchange on the eastbound side of the toll road.
A series of crashes occurred right after that and within minutes, wrecked vehicles stretched five miles back. The scene overhead looked like something out of a disaster movie. SkyForce10 photojournalist Jeremy Haas was the first to see the scene from that vantage point.
"It looked like multiple cars couldn't stop," said Haas.
Lisa Terreri and her husband were in a much more precarious place -- on the ground, behind the wheel, in the middle of it all.
"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.
Tom Hilley from Downingtown was behind the wheel of another vehicle and not as fortunate. He hit another car.
"I ran into him. He ran into me. These trucks plowed into them. It was...bouncing around like a pinball machine out here," said Hilley.
The multiple accidents left at least two dozen motorists injured and 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.
The eastbound side of the Turnpike was shut down and drivers were forced off at the Willow Grove exit. 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.
The Turnpike is expected to be closed on the eastbound side through the late afternoon.
No one has nailed down what set off the series of accidents, but questions are being raised about speed, icy conditions and sun glare.
The speed limit on the Turnpike had been restricted to 45 miles an hour due to Nor’easter, which dumped more than a foot of snow in much of that area. But those speed restrictions were lifted this morning before the crashes.
The public information officer for the Turnpike Commission sent out this tweet just before 1 a.m.