SOUTH ABINGTON TOWNSHIP, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – It took roughly 14 hours but both lanes of Interstate 81-South are now back open in Lackawanna County.
A crash involving seven vehicles, including six tractor trailers, caused quite a mess late Tuesday night in the Clarks Summit area.
The crash happened around 11:30 PM.
While everything is moving smoothly once again, first responders believe icy conditions most likely factored into the big wreck.
Witnesses say it was like something out of a movie, a huge mess on Interstate 81-South as seven vehicles including six tractor trailers collided.
The crash was so violent, the driver of a Jeep got his vehicle wedged into part of a FedEx truck.
“The ice last night didn’t help. Working in the rain and the ice from the firefighters to the police and EMS and everybody,” Michael Milewski, Jr. of Milewski Towing & Recovery said.
One of the big rigs was carrying recyclables caught fire which really hampered the clean-up process, lasting well into the daylight Wednesday.
“There was a lot of fire with the recycled paper so we had to work with the fire department to get the heat out and the fire out,” Milewski said.
It took crews until around 11:00 AM to get one lane of Interstate 81-South reopen. It took until just before 2:00 PM for both lanes to reopen.
With Interstate 81-South being closed down so long, a detour was set-up using Route 347-South but that also quickly backed-up.
The back-log of vehicles even led to more crashes, like a three-vehicle crash around 11:00 AM on 81-South as drivers didn’t know how slow going everything was.
“It backed up. The Walmart tractor trailer swerved in front of me. I swerved to the shoulder. The guy behind me couldn’t slow down fast enough and boom, hit me,” David Bruce of Clifford Township said.
Because of the initial wreck, some drivers were stopped on the interstate overnight.
PennDOT officials say that brings up an important reminder to make sure you have an emergency kit in your car filled with snacks, warm weather materials and even a first-aid kit.
“You need to think through what are the things that I would need for my car and what are the things that I would need for me personally,” PennDOT spokesman James May said.
Two people were taken to the hospital from the scene of the crash. First responders say their injuries do not appear to be life-threatening.
State police have not yet said if anyone will be cited in connection with the crash on Interstate 81-South.