Five people are dead and at least 60 more are injured after a multi-vehicle crash along the Pennsylvania Turnpike early Sunday morning.
The crash took place at about 3:40 a.m., approximately 30 miles from Pittsburgh, as a tour bus traveling to Cincinnati rolled over and was then hit by two tractor trailers, according to Stephen Limani, a public relations officer for the Pennsylvania State Police.
Limani said the crash was similar to a chain reaction and involved a bus operated by the Z&D Tour company.
“As they were traveling on that bus, it was headed on a downhill grade and the bus was unable to negotiate a corner. That bus went up an embankment, rolled over and then was subsequently struck by two tractor trailers,” Limani said at a press conference. “Another tractor trailer came and collided with those two tractor trailers, and there was another passenger car that was also involved in this crash.”
Limani said that the majority of the people on the bus were from outside the U.S. and that most spoke either Japanese or Spanish.
The Red Cross has responded to the crash alongside local first responders. Limani said the organization is working at local hospitals to address problems as they come up, including luggage, passports, finding housing and reconnecting the passengers with their families.
Law enforcement officials were also working to make sure that all who were involved in the crash were as comfortable as they could be, Limani said.
“We’re doing everything we can to make sure that while they’re in our country and they were involved in this horrific incident that we’re able to be compassionate and providing the things that they’re going to need outside of medical treatment,” Limani said.
Though people who were driving in the area at that time reported a change in weather conditions, Limani said the investigation is in such early stages that it’s too soon to pinpoint a specific cause.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it is sending a team of investigators to look into what caused the multi-vehicle crash.
Following the crash, at least 80 miles of the turnpike were closed in both directions as local emergency management teams responded and multiple agencies worked to assess the situation.
Craig Shuey, the chief operating officer for the Pennsylvania Turnpike, said that the section of the road where the crash occurred is one of the heaviest parts of the state’s snow belt and had been treated from 9 p.m. Saturday night onward.
Shuey said that hazmat crews had come out to clean up the diesel fuel and other hazardous materials and that local towing companies were getting ready to separate the entangled vehicles as they work to clear the roadway. Still, he did not expect the turnpike to open again for several hours.
“It’s a very extensive crash, so a lot of work has to be done in order to get the roadway reconditioned and ready to handle traffic again.”