By Melissa Klaric
Herald Staff Writer
LACKAWANNOCK TOWNSHIP —
Two multi-vehicle pileups late Thursday morning in Lackawannock Township closed Interstate 80 until mid-afternoon, diverting traffic onto U.S. Route 62 between the Shenango Valley and Mercer.
“Most of it is gone by now; you can imagine what a disaster it was,” state trooper James Mason said more than an hour after the crash in Lackawannock Township.
At least eight vehicles were involved in the accident about two miles west of the Mercer exit. State police reported several injuries, some severe.
Police said snow squalls contributed to the crash. Slick roads and near- whiteout conditions at 11:39 a.m. factored into the crash of at least two tractor-trailers and two cars at mile marker 15, close to the U.S. Route 19 exit.
All drivers and passengers, including a 2-year-old, were trapped in their vehicles. One person taken to St. Elizabeth Health Center in Youngstown was unresponsive, police said.
State police said witnesses in trailing vehicles saw the crash from the top of the hill at mile marker 14 and tried to slow down. One of those vehicles lost control, starting another pileup involving at least three trucks and two cars.
The cab of one 18-wheeler was nearly destroyed and its load of soybeans spilled onto the highway, resembling ball bearings. The cab of a second truck was nearly ripped off.
Police said people involved in the second crash also were injured but they did not have a report prepared by Thursday night.
PennDOT closed I-80 between exits 1 and 2 eastbound for four hours; one westbound lane was shut down for about an hour and a half. Traffic flow was back to normal shortly after 3:30 p.m.
PennDOT crews, East End volunteer firefighters from Mercer, Southwest Mercer County Regional police and McGonigle Ambulance Service personnel assisted.