A tractor-trailer driver who caused a Tuesday crash involving two other tractor-trailers on Interstate 80, "will be cited with numerous summary traffic violations," state police said.
The 11:23 a.m. crash at mile-marker 304.8 in Stroud Township backed up traffic on the highway and connecting roads for hours.
Edwin Chavez, 31, of Paterson, N.J., was driving a 1999 Freightliner east on I-80 between the Route 209 merge and the Main Street exit when he lost control for unknown reasons, causing the trailer's load to shift and the vehicle to flip over the concrete median and across both westbound lanes and the left eastbound lane.
Its load, a shipping container, became separated from its trailer.
An Acura TL, driven by Susan Arnst, 56, of East Stroudsburg, was hit by debris from the overturning tractor-trailer. Another tractor-trailer, a 1998 Freightliner driven by Gary Bailey of Independence, Mo., was hit by Chavez's trailer.
A third tractor-trailer, a 1996 Freightliner driven by William Cowan, 62, of Bordman, Ohio, swerved off the road into a grassy area, damaging its undercarriage.
No injuries were reported, but all vehicles involved suffered minor to major damage.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation quickly closed both westbound lanes and traffic was diverted onto West Main Street. Both westbound lanes were closed for 4½ hours while crews cleared the mangled big rig.
Linda Schlier, owner of Schlier's Towing, was tasked with removing the wreckage.
"When we got there it was just a little scary, with the trailer having ridden the medium so long. The load was all compressed cardboard boxes, so it was really heavy," Schlier said. "We used a lot of SpeedyDry because both the tanks were ruptured and their was diesel fuel spilled. Thank God it didn't kill anybody, because that was a bad wreck."
Monroe County emergency officials sprung into action when the crash was reported.
"Over the last one or two accidents since the I-80 communications committee meetings, Pennsylvania State police in Swiftwater has been pretty diligent about notifying the New Jersey Department of Transportation and state police to get the information out on their message boards," said Bob Werts, program coordinator for the Northeast Pennsylvania Regional Counterterrorism Task Force.
The message boards were strategically placed far enough back from the crash site to give motorists enough time to divert to other routes.
Werts said the group was working with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to try to get message boards as far back as the Pennsylvania Turnpike and then in the area of Blakeslee to divert traffic from the area of the accident so traffic doesn't get backlogged into the Stroudsburg area.
The Monroe County Emergency management's RSAN communications system sends text messages after a reported crash with the location of the crash.
The Stroud Township Volunteer Fire Department diverted traffic off I-80 west at Exit 305.
Despite these moves, the closure caused traffic backups throughout Stroudsburg. Westbound traffic was backed up for miles on I-80, though it was moving slowly. Eastbound traffic was backed up on I-80 as well as northbound traffic on four-lane Route 209.
PennDOT reported another crash in the afternoon at I-80 in Bartonsville and Route 33 South. It is not known how much a role that played in the traffic mess.
At about 4 p.m. Lindsey Oberly reported, "611 is all backed up now too... just spent 45 minutes sitting in traffic for what should have taken 10."
About the same time, Barbara Magnano was trying to take back roads to get from Bartonsville through Stroudsburg to Marshalls Creek. "The traffic is horrendous," she reported, with cars backed up on Chipperfield Drive from the intersection of Fifth Street to the Stroudsburg school campus.
"People are turning around in the middle of Chipperfield," Magnano said.
Attorney Doug Stoehr is a personal injury lawyer serving western and central Pennsylvania. For more information on his Altoona area law practice, please click this link or call his office at 814-946-4100.