Three dead, 46 injured in Interstate 78 crash

Written by Les Stewart, Matt Catrillo and Cati Keith/Lebanon Daily News | Feb 13, 2016 6:22 PM

More than 30 cars were involved in a pile up on Interstate 78 just west of Route 22 Saturday morning.(Photo: Michael K. Dakota. Lebanon Daily News)

(Fredricksburg) -- Three people died and 46 were injured this morning after a massive accident occurred on Interstate 78 involving 40 to 50 vehicles near Fredericksburg, in Bethel Township, Lebanon County. Names of the deceased and injured have not been released.

A spokesperson from Penn State Hershey Medical Center says they treated 13 of the 46 injuries. Three were treated for critical injuries, three for moderate to severe, and seven for minor injuries. Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Justin Summa, of the Jonestown barracks, said in a news conference 46 people were taken to seven area hospitals by ambulance with helicopter.

The accident shutdown both east and westbound lanes of the interstate, which was reported shortly after 9:30 a.m. Multiple emergency crews from Lebanon County and surrounding counties were dispatched to the scene of the crash.

Four medical helicopters landed on the interstate to transport the most seriously injured.

Initial reports said 15 to 20 people were trapped in their vehicles.

Summa said the accident was weather related, due to drifting snow and reduced visibility. Summa also said 70 people were bussed to Jonestown Perseverance Fire Company, where  a shelter was set up by the Lebanon County Red Cross. Those people, all uninjured in the crash, were given food and transportation to their destinations or to area hotels.

According to Summa, Interstate 78 will remain closed until midnight. Several detours have already been enforced.

Jenny Privitera and her husband, Jason, were on their way to the Outdoor Show in Harrisburg when the crash happened.

"It was on and off sunny and cloudy, and all of a sudden there was just a white out," she said. "We couldn't see much in front of us. It lasted for 20-30 minutes. We could hear the crash behind us and everyone sliding."

She said she and her husband were not injured.

"I've never seen anything like that. It was just crazy. You can't plan for it," she said.

Karl Shuster, of Northampton, and Matt Lubensky, of Bethlehem, headed toward Harrisburg, were at the front of massive pileup.

"We could just hear it piling up behind us, Lubensky said.

A truck in front of them slowed down and they slowed down, setting off the massive crash, Shuster said.

"We got hit four times and everyone piled in behind us," Shuster said.

"The vehicle's totaled but we're good," he said.

State police reconstruction, Motor Carrier Assistance, and Forensic Services Units were all sent to the scene, as well as the Lebanon County Hazardous Materials Unit to clean diesel fuel and anti-freeze.

The State Emergency Operation Center activated in response to crash sending representatives from the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency to the scene, and its central area office has representatives in the Lebanon County Emergency Management Agency Operations Centers.

Emergency Preparedness Liaisons from Red Cross, State Police, Dept. of Military and Veteran Affairs, Human Services and Health are engaged in the response from the state, according to PEMA

Coordination has been made between the Pennsylvania State Police, Berks and Lebanon County EOC's and Governor Wolf's office on a conference call just before noon today.

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