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‘White-out’ conditions lead to 52-vehicle pileup on I-75

Published: Monday, January 21, 2013 @ 11:51 AM
Updated: Monday, January 21, 2013 @ 9:22 PM
By: Mandy Gambrell, Andy Sedlak

A snow squall that created “white-out” conditions and slick roads is being blamed for three pileup crashes that killed a 12-year-old girl and involved more than 150 vehicles on Ohio interstates Monday.

Fifty-two vehicles — including two semitrailers — crashed into each other on southbound Interstate 75 near the Ohio 122 exit in Middletown just before noon, scattering wreckage across the road and backing up traffic for miles, according to the Ohio Highway Patrol. No one involved suffered life-threatening injuries, though nine people went to Atrium Medical Centerfor treatment of bumps and bruises, officials said.

“It just came out of the blue. There was a white-out from the squall that came through the area so people couldn’t see, then the road got coated,” said Sgt. Scott Bierer, of the patrol’s Lebanon post. “It was like a perfect storm.”

Light snow flurries were predicted as a possibility Monday, but the white-out event was unexpected.

At about the same time of the massive pileup on I-75, as many as 86 cars and trucks were colliding on I-275 near the Colerain Avenue exit. About 20 people were injured in the crash and a 12-year-old girl was killed when she got out of her car after the accident, according to Colerain Twp. fire officials.

The girl, who had not been identified by name late Monday, was standing in the median and was either struck by another vehicle or a guardrail that snapped, authorities said.

A third accident involving as many as 20 vehicles happened at about 12:30 p.m. on I-270 south near Westerville, according to the Columbus Dispatch. Three people were taken to hospitals with minor injuries.

Franklin County Sheriff’s Office officials were unavailable for comment, but on scene Cpl. Robert Burns said the pileup was caused by ice and low visibility because of the snow, according to the Dispatch.

Luke Stevens, 18, of Van Wert, was at the front of the pileup on I-75 after the car he was in with three others spun out of control.

“It was complete ice all over the highway,” Stevens said, adding he could see other vehicles coming at his car once it came to a stop facing north.

“Cars were coming straight toward us at 60 miles per hour. … We ended up getting hit head-on by a truck,” he said. “We got hit probably 10 other times by other cars banging into each other. … We were in a (Buick) Rendezvous. All the airbags deployed.”

His mother was in the vehicle and was taken to a hospital with a neck injury, he said.

Authorities shut down southbound I-75 starting at Ohio 123 for about four hours while troopers and crews from Middletown, Monroe, Turtlecreek Twp., Liberty Twp. and Joint Emergency Medical Services gathered information from drivers, tended to the injured and cleared wreckage. No one has been cited for any traffic violations, officials said.

Jackie Jones, of Carlisle, said she is a teacher who was off school headed to Cincinnati Premium Outlets and was on the interstate when the snow began to fall so heavily she couldn’t see. Jones said it was instantly white.

“All I could see were cars starting to swirl in front of me. As soon as I tapped my brakes my car started to kind of get out of control,” she said.

“I gripped the wheel and somehow made it to the side of the road,” she said. “Thank goodness the cars around me didn’t collide and were able to come to stops.”