UNITED STATES NEWS

Toll rises to 8 dead, 63 hurt from Louisiana interstate pileup blamed on dense fog, marsh fire smoke

Oct 24, 2023, 5:49 AM | Updated: Oct 25, 2023, 1:14 pm

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The toll from a series of crashes on a Louisiana interstate rose to eight dead and 63 injured Tuesday evening, a day after a “super fog” of marsh fire smoke and dense fog snared more than 160 vehicles in the fiery pileup, authorities said.

Lance Scott was among the many drivers caught in the wreckage on Interstate 55 west of New Orleans. The 51-year-old had been driving his daughter to the airport Monday morning when the fog thickened like a “white-out on a ski slope.” He slammed on his brakes, narrowly avoiding the cars in front of him while hearing “the most horrendous clank of metal” behind him.

“It was, ’Bang. Bang. Bang.’ It just went on… for probably 45 seconds,” Scott said. “As every second went by the clanking of the metal got a little bit fainter, which told me it was backing up — so I knew there was layers and layers of collisions.”

Scott turned to his 24-year-old daughter, an intensive care unit nurse, and said to her, “There’s going to be a lot of people who need help and I need you to go out and do what you do.”

Amid the ominous crackling of flames in the wreckage, the fog slowly lifted afterward to reveal the extent of the pileup. Scott and his daughter helped people out of their cars, some with noticeably broken collarbones. One had to wait for first responders to bring the Jaws of Life.

An estimated 168 vehicles were involved in the crashes, Louisiana State Police said. By Tuesday evening the number of fatalities had increased from seven to eight and the number of reported injured more than doubled, Louisiana State Police said in a news release.

At least 63 people were injured, with injuries ranging from minor to critical, others sought medical aid on their own, authorities said in the update.

It is unclear whether it was the most significant crash ever handled by Louisiana State Police, given the number of vehicles and fatalities involved, state police Sgt. Kate Stegall told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

“However, I can tell you that this is an extensive and devastating incident, resulting in loss of lives and profound repercussions for both the community and first responders,” Stegall said.

The crashes began before 9 a.m. Monday along a one-mile (1.6-kilometer) stretch of the elevated interstate, which passes over swamp and open water between Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas, State Police Sgt. Kate Stegall said in a news briefing.

The crashes left a long stretch of mangled and scorched cars, trucks and tractor-trailers. Crushed vehicles were piled atop each other, blackened by flames. Some people got out of their vehicles and stood on the side of the road or on the roofs of their cars looking on in disbelief at the disaster. Others cried out for help.

Scott said there was “great camaraderie” as people sprang into action, helping others. With drivers warning others about a nearby fire from the crash, people moved away from the wreckage. They waited for 45 minutes for paramedics to reach them and for transportation off the bridge.

Clarencia Patterson Reed, 46, was driving to Manchac with her wife and niece and saw people waving for her to stop, but once she stopped, two other vehicles hit her car from behind and the side, she told The Associated Press. Patterson Reed escaped from her side of the car, but her wife was pinned inside, her side and a leg injured. Others stepped in to help, she said.

“I just thank God,” she said. “There was a casualty a few cars ahead of us.”

Another driver Christopher Coll, said he was already braking when a pickup truck “drove up on top of my work trailer and took me for a ride.”

Coll could smell smoke as he heard cars crashing and tires popping. He was able to kick open his passenger door to escape and then helped others — pulling one person out a car window.

School buses were summoned to transport stranded motorists from the accident sites.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards asked for prayers “for those hurt and killed” Monday and issued a call for blood donors.

Crews removed the last vehicles Tuesday afternoon and began a cleanup of debris, diesel and other chemicals littering the area, authorities said. Additionally, the state’s transportation department identified multiple areas requiring bridge repairs as inspections continued.

The National Weather Service said there were multiple wetland fires in the region Monday and smoke from the fires mixed with fog to create a “super fog.”

Parts of the highway reopened Tuesday afternoon. But hazardous driving conditions Tuesday morning prompted several schools in the area to close or delay openings as tow trucks continued to haul debris off of the interstate.

___

Associated Press photographer Gerald Herbert and writer Beatrice Dupuy contributed to this report. McGill reported from New Orleans and Cline from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

United States News

Associated Press

Arrests follow barricades and encampments as college students nationwide protest Gaza war

NEW YORK (AP) — Standoffs between pro-Palestinian student protesters and universities grew increasingly tense on both coasts Wednesday as hundreds encamped at Columbia University faced a deadline from the administration to clear out while dozens remained barricaded inside two buildings on a Northern California college campus. Both are part of intensifying demonstrations over schools cut […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

What to listen for during Supreme Court arguments on Donald Trump and presidential immunity

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court hears arguments Thursday over whether Donald Trump is immune from prosecution in a case charging him with plotting to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. It’s a historic day for the court, with the justices having an opportunity to decide once and for all whether former presidents […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

USPS commits to rerouting Reno-area mail despite bipartisan pushback and mail ballot concerns

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The USPS announced on Tuesday it will follow through with its plan to reroute Reno-area mail processing to Sacramento, a move that drew bipartisan ire from Nevada lawmakers while raising questions about the rate at which mail ballots can be processed in a populous part of a crucial swing state. Postmaster […]

7 hours ago

The American and Ukrainian flags wave in the wind outside of the Capitol on Tuesday, April 23, 2024...

Associated Press

Senate overwhelmingly passes aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan with big bipartisan vote

The Senate has passed $95 billion in war aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, sending the legislation to Biden after months of delays.

8 hours ago

The logo for the Tesla Supercharger station is seen in Buford, Ga, April 22, 2021. Faced with falli...

Associated Press

Tesla 1Q profit falls 55%, but stock jumps as company moves to speed production of cheaper vehicles

Tesla’s stock price surged in after-hours trading Tuesday as the company said it would prioritize production of more affordable vehicles.

8 hours ago

Pages from the United Healthcare website are displayed on a computer screen, Feb. 29, 2024, in New ...

Associated Press

UnitedHealth says wide swath of patient files may have been taken in Change cyberattack

The company said after markets closed that it sees no signs that doctor charts or full medical histories were released after the attack.

9 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

Toll rises to 8 dead, 63 hurt from Louisiana interstate pileup blamed on dense fog, marsh fire smoke