ETNA, Maine – More than 40 vehicles crashed Wednesday on a snowy stretch of Interstate 95 in Maine, injuring at least 17 people, police said.
The pileup in Etna, near Bangor, happened at about 7:30 a.m. and involved several cars, a school bus and a tractor-trailer, state police spokesman Steve McCausland said. No fatalities were immediately reported, but McCausland said some of the injuries were serious.
Emergency personnel climbed on top of cars to reach motorists stuck in the middle of the chaotic tangle of vehicles. McCausland said one veteran trooper described the site as a “giant pile of metal.”
Rhonda Kent, an occupational therapist from Saint Albans, said her car was sideswiped amid the pileup, which sent cars and trucks spinning. Kent, who was not injured, said a logging truck came dangerously close to hitting her and spun off into a ditch.
“It was almost surreal, something you see in the movies,” Kent said.
Both northbound lanes on a 30-mile stretch of highway were closed for five hours, and drivers were told to take other exits to avoid the area.
One northbound lane reopened around 12:30 p.m.
Eastern Maine Medical Center had received 11 patients at its emergency department by 10 a.m., all of them in good to serious condition. St. Joseph Hospital said it was evaluating six patients from the crashes but did not release their condition.
Police said the main crash involved more than 25 vehicles, and there were a series of other wrecks leading up to the crash site. Some of the crashes involved two or three vehicles, and then other vehicles went off the road to avoid hitting them.
At a travel stop in nearby Newburgh, people involved in the crash were gathering to give statements to police, according to WZON-AM radio. Some were keeping warm in a parked school bus. Workers at the truck stop reported seeing more than a dozen ambulances try to access the highway from a nearby ramp.
Rose Butts, a hospital housekeeper from Plymouth, said she swerved to miss part of the accident and hit a snow bank. She and a friend were not injured but waited in her car for five hours for help.
“We’re thankful that we’re both alive and both OK,” she said.
Dylan Carroll, a Plymouth auto mechanic, said he swerved and hit a snow bank before a garbage truck spun out, tapped his car and blocked him. He was not injured.
“I thought it was going to be much worse than it was,” Carroll said.
The school bus had three passengers aboard. Police said the students were “shaken up” but not injured.
There was at least an inch of snow on the ground at the time of the crash, according to the National Weather Service. Snow was forecast to fall throughout the day with total accumulations of 5 to 9 inches.